Archive >> Repost Fan Fiction

How to Disappear Completely M/L Nc-17 COMPLETE 11/02
by RosDeidre


posted on 29-Sep-2001 10:42:17 AM
Title: How To Disappear Completely
Author: Deidre
Email: Deidremk@aol.com
Rating: Mostly PG-13, with some NC-17 after part 19.

Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended, either with respect to Melinda Metz’ work and characters, or to the wb or Jason Katims. Many thanks to all of you for creating such a fabulous world. Also, no infringement is intended in respect to Radiohead’s song title, either—just a respectful bow of thanks.

Summary: The story takes place the night of The End of the World and afterward, and imagines what might have happened differently.
Category: Max/Liz; Future Max/Liz


CHAPTER ONE

Wrinkles. Not just wrinkles, but gray hairs. Max frowned, and turned away from the bathroom mirror. Liz had been denying it for months, whenever he’d asked if she could see them. Why did he care that she had commented on them, when such monumental things were at stake?

Maybe the problem was that lately he’d started to feel less than young. Not old--just not so young anymore. That’s what fourteen years of fighting did to you. It wore you down, bit by bit. And now this. Seeing Liz again at seventeen, when she was not yet fully his, and when there’d been so much promise for their future. When they might have become anything together. The worst part, was that seeing her again brought it all back, and even though he shouldn’t, he wanted her.

He could hear them in the other room…what was she saying? She was asking something about Max…and visions. He didn’t like the idea of her in bed with Kyle, platonic agreement or not. He frowned remembering just how lovely she'd been tonight, when she'd asked him to look away while she undressed for Kyle. He wished he was the one in her bed right now. Ah, what he’d do to her, but this Liz wouldn’t exactly know what to make of that. At least not at first, but he could deal with that.

He looked into the mirror. Gray hairs and…. scars. So many battles and what had been the point of any of them now? What he wouldn’t give just to be seventeen and at Liz’s window again. To be making love to her for the first time again.

Suddenly, he felt a shudder, something deep within him. It was him. He was close—whenever his younger self was near, he could feel it, almost like a vibration through his bones. He was outside now. Deep pain, like he’d never felt. It was happening now, because he could remember it. He could remember how it had felt to see Liz with Kyle. The betrayal of it all. What was she doing? Why was she there?

And yet he had never seen it with his own eyes. But it was part of his memory now, etched into his deepest marrow forever. He shuddered again. He could almost feel himself splitting in two. He didn’t have much longer, because he couldn’t take much more of this.

Then he could feel Liz reaching to him—not just him, but his other, younger self. He could feel her heartbeat, no matter where she was, no matter what was happening, and she was hurting. He had to make it better some how.

“Max.” She was outside the bathroom.

“Yeah?” He closed his eyes, trying to beat out the pain.

“He’s gone,” she whispered softly through the closed door.

The door opened, and her sweet face looked up at him, concerned for him. After what he’d just made her do--what he’d just done to her. He shook his head, trying to knock that awful memory out of his mind. How bizarre to remember something he’d never seen. She stepped into the bathroom, wrapped only in a towel. He couldn’t help but look.

“Are you okay?” she asked.

He sighed and looked back into the mirror. Tired. Old. She smiled, touching his face lightly, as she gazed at his reflection.

“You have a beard. That’s still just….different.” Her eyes widened, then she looked down nervously at her towel. He’d broken her heart tonight, in asking her to do this. Again, he felt the grief shoot through him, as if he’d just seen it all himself.
He turned toward her, running his fingers over the top edge of the towel. He knew his hand was wandering dangerously close to where it shouldn’t be, but he didn’t care.

“You don’t have to be shy with me, Liz.” His hand trailed across bare skin, then wandered back into her hair. “I mean…. I know you.” She dropped her eyes at what he was implying. “All of you,” he said. She flushed, and kept her eyes lowered.

“Yeah, I know. But…it’s still kind of weird, you know?” Then she looked up into his eyes. He saw so much pain in them. He had to make it better, to find a deeper connection with her, and he could feel that there wasn’t much time. She needed more from him with all that was ahead of her.

Max pulled her into his arms, and held her, softly stroking her hair. “Is this weird?” he whispered into her ear.

“No,” she sighed, wrapping her arms around him “this is…just right.”

Lightly, he kissed her forehead, “How about this?” he breathed, as he trailed the kiss downward, and his lips met her’s. Liz didn’t answer, couldn’t answer, because the moment they kissed, there was an explosion of energy between them that he knew she’d never felt before. She didn’t understand exactly what he’d meant by “cemented.” That he was implying a lot more than just making love…that they were bound together in ways she didn’t know existed. And that bond transcended time and space, so it existed even with this version of Liz.

Liz pulled away, gasping, “What was that?” He closed his eyes, fighting to regain control. “That wasn’t a flash, Max.”

“Liz…”

“Don’t say you can’t tell me, Max!” Tears sprang to her eyes.

“It’s difficult to explain.”

“That’s never happened between us before. Why now…with you?” He reached for her again, trying to pull her into his arms, but she pushed him away. She still looked so angry.

“Liz, I love you, just know that. I can’t explain what you just felt, but we’d better not kiss again because if we do…”

“Then what?” she asked.

“Then things are going to really change within you.” She deserved an explanation, yet what happened if he gave it to her?

“Liz, the flashes were always….just a hint of what could happen. Sort of like flipping through a radio dial,” he took her hand in his, and lightly kissed her palm. “Just a glimpse of what could happen between us.”

Liz looked incredulous. “But they’re so amazing.”
Max stared intently into her eyes. “Yes, and that’s…”

“The problem,” Liz finished for him, suddenly understanding. Max nodded slowly. “When we made love, we tuned into each other permanently.”

“But you, “ Liz flushed, “this version of you—and I have never…”

“No, but it’s still there…somehow. Ever since we made love, the connection is just always there…anytime we touch or kiss,” this time Max dropped his eyes. “or are physically intimate, it's there.”

Max kissed Liz’s hand again softly, then whispered “Sort of like this.” Then in one breath, he closed his hand around her’s, and allowed the connection to explode. Liz stumbled backward against the sink, and Max reached to steady her, still holding her hand tightly in his. He felt it, too, but he’d had fourteen years to get used to their bond. Gently he pulled her into his arms, still clasping her hand tightly in his.

“Don’t let go,” she breathed against his neck.

“I have to, Liz. But first I want you to understand.” Liz began to tremble in his arms, her small frame shivering against him. “I feel you…your soul…or something.” Liz could hardly speak.

“Yes…our souls are touching, actually.” Max held Liz as tightly as he could, their ragged breaths falling into a single rhythm. Only silence spun out between them, because there were no words. Memories, emotions, thoughts…and heat. He could literally feel Liz’s body growing hot against him. If he didn’t stop this soon, they were both going to be in trouble, but he couldn’t seem to make the break. How could he, knowing it would be so final. No, he definitely didn’t want to stop this--what he wanted was to deepen it even further, but he was dangerously close to transferring the bond permanently. She pulled back slightly and looked up at him. Had she heard his thoughts?

“Max, you’ve always wanted to make…” she took a gasping breath “all the rules.” With that, she drew her lips within a mere breath of his, then stopped. He was lost in her eyes. What did she want him to do?

“But maybe this time I want to make them.” Softly, her lips met his with the sweetest and gentlest of kisses. “I love you, Max. I will always love you.” With that, she slowly released his hand from her’s, and the roaring blaze faded to cold embers in one swift instant.

“I made the break because you couldn’t,” she whispered, stroking his face lightly. He rested his forehead against her’s. “I didn’t want to leave you in 2014, either. I shouldn’t have done what I just did, Liz—I’m sorry.”

She took his face firmly in her hands. “Max, you just gave me an amazing gift.” Her eyes pooled with tears. “I know everything now…about us, about you. And I understand why we had to do this tonight.” He nodded, and softly stroked her cheek. There was nothing more he could tell her that she didn’t already know, not when she had been inside his heart and mind. Should he tell her that she was the only real home he’d ever known, and that leaving her had killed him? That tonight had killed him? No, words would just feel empty now. He let his hand drop.

“I’d better let you get dressed,” he smiled wryly. “I don’t think it’s such a great idea, me being around you and that towel right now.”

He stepped past her with a soft smile.

CHAPTER TWO

Liz knew it would upset Max to realize just how powerfully their connection had affected her, so she’d held herself together. But the minute she closed the bathroom door behind him, she began to sob silently and uncontrollably. She wasn’t even sure how long she stood there, her back shaking against the closed door, hot tears streaking her face.

It had been the most intimate, tender experience of her life. She knew now what it must be like to make love, what it would have been like for Max to make love to her. He’d been inside her, and she inside him, and all their yearning for one another had been completely satisfied for just those few minutes.

She’d felt and known everything in his heart--the incredible depths of him, his memories, his love for her…and so much pain it had been devastating. But she wouldn’t let him know that because during their connection, she’d also felt Max’s worry for her—and a fierce protectiveness she’d never known from him before. Where had that come from? Had he always been that way, but just been guarded about it? Or was it the result of everything she’d sensed about his past fourteen years?

That, more than anything else, was why she cried. She’d felt his deep grief over losing Isabelle and Michael, but nothing had prepared her for how much he ached for the future version of herself. How could she not have understood that even though he was with her, he’d still lost his wife of twelve years when he’d traveled back in time?

And she cried for her Max, and the look she’d seen on his face. She’d destroyed him tonight, and she couldn’t even imagine what he was feeling right now. Where had he gone? She had a desperate urge to go find him, to tell him everything—to make him part of this. She wanted to hold him, and take away that look she’d seen in his eyes. But she couldn’t do that, not if their plan was going to succeed. No, she had to allow their deception to play out, and in the process hurt someone she knew would never willingly hurt her; in fact, would do anything to protect her.

Liz wiped at the tears, willing them to subside as she reached for a tissue. She glanced in the mirror and couldn’t believe how quickly her entire face had become angry and swollen. She was going to have to fix that, or Max would know just how upset she was. She ran cold water on a cloth, and began to blot her eyes. No, Max couldn’t know she’d been in here crying like this, so some damage control would be required. She reached for her makeup bag, and began to rummage through it. As she did, Liz reflected that there was something else she’d never let this Max know, something that she would keep from him at all costs. No, that was one secret she intended to keep for the rest of her life—and that suddenly seemed like a very long, lonely time.



Max leaned back in Liz’s lounge chair and stared at the night sky. One thing Roswell had in abundance was stars, and tonight was a glorious, clear evening. How many years had it been since he’d even looked up like this? When he’d been a child, he’d stared at the stars for hours on end, imagining where he was from, and if he’d ever find his way home.

Then, somewhere along the line, he’d begun simply to look at them with an incredible sense of wonder—probably when he was about sixteen or seventeen. He and Liz would stare at the sky through her telescope, and she’d tell him all the things she was learning in her astronomy books. Sometimes they’d just sit on her balcony and hold each other, staring up…full of awe. But that was a lifetime ago, and he wasn’t sure exactly when, but at some point he had just stopped looking up altogether.

Liz was taking a long time getting dressed, and he wondered if she was alright. He stood and began to pace, exhaling loudly in frustration. Of course she wasn’t okay—who was he kidding? He’d give her a few more minutes, then go check on her. Max walked to the ledge, and looked out on the street. He’d always loved that Liz’s family lived downtown like this. He smiled softly, remembering their first few months of marriage, when they had lived right in Liz’s room. They’d turned it into their first apartment, and while it was cramped with all of them under one roof, it was one of the happiest times he’d ever known.

He looked down over the ledge, lost in the memories…and had an idea. He reached underneath his shirt and removed a long gold chain. There was a simple ring dangling from the end, warm from where it had been laying against his chest. He slipped the chain over his head and quickly unfastened it, letting the band slide into his palm. He smiled, closing his hand around it.



“I bet our parents wanted to kill us for eloping,” Liz laughed softly, as she finished lighting the last candles along her balcony wall.

“No, no…that’s not true.” Max walked toward her, serious.

“No?” Liz raised her eyebrows in surprise.

“No, your parents wanted to kill me.” They both broke into laughter.

“I bet!” Staring out into the dark night, she grew quiet.

“Could I ask you a question, Max? Something that’s been kind of bothering me?”

He stepped behind her, just a breath away from her.
“Sure.”

“We didn’t have any children?” Liz asked tentatively, as she and Max looked into the nearly empty downtown street together. He stood right behind her, and she could almost feel his breath on her neck. He was silent for a long moment, and her pulse began to race. Was it such a tough question?

She turned to him, wanting to read his expression, but he was completely guarded. “What, Max?”

He hesitated a moment. “It wasn’t possible,” he answered finally.

“Oh…” Liz replied softly, turning away so he wouldn’t see her face. He placed his hand lightly on her shoulder.

“I don’t mean because of our being...different. I don’t know the answer to that.”

“Then what, Max?”

He began to gently rub her shoulders and she could feel the heat from his hands through her shirt. It was like he was healing her, his touch was so warm and gentle…she wanted to lean back into him.

“It was too dangerous…always. We didn’t try at first, we were so young, and then it was too late.”

He continued rubbing her shoulders, his calloused thumbs traveling lightly up her neck. For someone who wanted to make sure they stayed apart physically, he was awfully close. Her heart began to race and she felt the connection flicker, then fade. It was like dancing in and out of the light, with each of his soft touches. Did he know how to just let her catch glimpses of it like this? Oh, back into the warm sunlight as he ran his hands down her arms, rubbing softly. He’d wanted babies with her…more than anything. Back into the cool shade, as he pulled his hands away.

Again, thumbs traveling up her neck, warmth, healing….dancing into the brightest sunlight, just touching the connection, more healing. He was healing her.

She leaned back into him and sighed contentedly. He kissed her softly behind the ear, then let his hands drop away, and the sun disappeared behind the clouds again. She looked over her shoulder at him in surprise. He knew exactly what he was doing, and how to take her in and out of their bond, without letting it catch hold.

“I’ve been with you a long time, Liz,” he smiled, answering her unspoken thought. “I know a lot about you…and me.” Very gently, he turned her face away from him.

“But don’t look at me…that helps,” and he let his fingers linger softly on her cheek. Instantly, she flushed beneath his touch, and the connection flickered to life again. Liz closed her eyes and breathed in the scent of him, so much the same, yet slightly different. Golden shimmers. More healing. What was he really doing to her?

“Shh…” he whispered, as he trailed a radiant kiss across the nape of her neck. “Just let me do it.”

And then she knew—with every whisper of their connection he was making her stronger, allowing a part of himself to flow into her. She could face whatever lay ahead now, because wherever she went, he would always go with her. That was the real gift he’d given her tonight. And no matter what happened with her Max tomorrow, she knew that she wasn’t going to really be alone after all.






Edited by - RosDeidre on 09/30/2001 10:44:19

Edited by - RosDeidre on 09/30/2001 14:13:47

[ edited 1time(s), last at 2-Nov-2001 5:14:36 PM ]

posted on 29-Sep-2001 11:08:05 AM

PART THREE


Liz sat at her desk, enveloped by darkness, the victim of yet another sleepless night. There had been a lot of those in the past week.

Prove me wrong, Liz. Please.

She stared at the open email, its simple plea flickering on her computer screen. She had logged online to surf a bit, since lately the website for the international space station had been the only thing to help her fall asleep. Who wouldn’t find real-time video of something so quiet and distant at least a bit lulling? So, at 2:38 am, wide-awake, she had padded to her desk, logged on, and found two emails waiting.

Her heart had jolted upon seeing them, and of course she had instantly recognized the sender…Max. Great. He’d sent them at 1:14 am, which meant he wasn’t sleeping any better than she was. But why should that surprise her? She clicked on the first one and groaned. I guess my heart really was wrong the entire past year. Then the second one, sent at 1:16 am. Prove me wrong, Liz. Please.

The cursor blinked rhythmically, demanding an answer where she had none to give. Liz buried her face in her hands, and fought back tears. She couldn’t possibly explain that she’d made an unspoken pledge to him. And that she was bound to keep it, no matter what the cost to either of them—cursed by the very fact that she would do anything he ever asked of her.

It was a giant logic loop, threading backward and forward throughout time, and there seemed no way out of it for any of them. Her head swam with it all. But one thing was certain—all their futures depended on her. She had to be strong, had to resist the connection she’d forged with his other self, because it was always there now…singing to her, wooing her, seducing her. Even when she slept it whispered her name. And if she chose to reach for it, Liz had no doubt it would simply come alive between them.
Not an option, she reminded herself firmly.

Liz hit delete, and in one furious gesture, exited her email. Goodbye. Suddenly, she hated that automated electronic voice. She shivered, remembering the tone of Max’s email. He had all but begged her to tell him the truth. He knew something wasn’t right—had known from the beginning. As he’d pointed out, it just didn’t make sense. Now, she was just hurting him even more by refusing to be honest with him.

Grief rolled over Liz in waves all the time now. Just when she thought she could catch her breath, it would hit again. Worse than any pain she was experiencing, though, was the knowledge of what she’d done to Max.
Wasn’t there some morsel of hope she could offer him? Liz combed her fingers wildly through her hair, as she stood and paced in the darkness. What she needed was a plan—yes, if there was anything Liz knew, it was how to strategize. She clasped her hands together tightly, ignoring the slight tremors that shook them. No, she would not heed the voice that insisted there was no way out of this maze for Max…for her. She had to believe. All it took was a plan.



Max Evans turned over in bed, kicking at the covers that had grown tangled around him.

Prove me wrong, Liz. Please.

They were the very same unspoken words Max had cried out to her from the beginning. Show me that I’m not what I fear I am. All his life he’d believed that if anyone saw what he really was, if they came too close, they would run from him. But for some reason with Liz, he’d felt he could risk exposing his innermost parts, those aspects he’d always protected.

So he had let her in, past all the barriers, further than anyone else. And she had applied her own healing balm to his soul, gently rubbed it into every place that needed human touch. Funny that she thought of him as having healed her, when the truth was so much the opposite. He may have healed her body that day at the Crashdown, but she had healed his heart, spirit…his essence.

Her answer had been simple acceptance. And with every kiss, every touch he’d felt something that had always seemed just beyond his grasp. To the very core of his being, he had felt human. And the amazing thing was, the more human he felt, the more his alien nature awakened within him. He’d never been able to tell Liz that, had worried it might frighten her, but it was certainly the truth. For even his powers had grown so much stronger as she had coaxed him to life…loved him, because in her arms he’d stopped running from himself. For the first time, he felt whole, balanced--the human and alien sides in true harmony—so intertwined that there was no separating them. That’s what Liz’s touch had done to him, and it had felt so safe.

Until now. Now he didn’t know what to think anymore. Could he have been so wrong? He turned over in bed for perhaps the hundredth time tonight, haunted by the luminous glow of his digital clock. 3:13 am. Would sleep ever find him? Not so long as those emails hung suspended in cyberspace. What had he been thinking? It had seemed like a good idea a few hours ago, but not now. No—he just needed to intercept them and choose a new strategy in the morning, one that would seem less desperate.

He felt his way to the computer and logged on in the darkness. The modem crackled and whined to life. He couldn’t help but feel disappointment when he realized he hadn’t received any new email. What did he think—that Liz would write him at 2 am on a school night? Quickly, he selected his outgoing mail and hit delete.

But his heart sank when the reply came back that he couldn’t unsend a note that had already been read. So she had gotten his letters…and not replied. That figured. He stared at the computer’s opaque screen--he wasn’t even sure for how long--waiting, hoping for a reply. Because no matter what he’d seen with his eyes, Max couldn’t shake the feeling that he should believe his heart instead.


Liz had paced herself into a frenzy, determined to think of something she could offer Max, some kind of answer. God knew he deserved it. And then she’d simply seen the way. If he solved the riddle, then perhaps there could still be hope for them—after all, both Maxes had said they made their own destiny, so it must be true. Liz had quickly scanned her bookcase, her pulse quickening with excitement, until her fingers found just the volume of literature she was looking for.

All it took was a plan. Maybe this one was crazy, maybe he wouldn’t see, but she had to try. And as faith came alive within her—for the first time since the whole strange odyssey had begun-- Liz heard a faint whisper in the deepest recesses of her mind. You were going to be the wife of a leader. The wife of a king. Liz stopped dead in her tracks at the revelation, frozen in the pools of moonlight cascading across her bedroom floor. The pale light danced across her body, touching her, empowering her .

Seventeen-year old Liz Parker might not know much about royal heritage, but she knew one thing from her history books. Great queens always pointed their husbands toward home.


PART FOUR

Liz crunched the ice in her empty diet coke glass with her straw, trying desperately to focus on her American history notes. She’d been looking at the same words for nearly an hour now, but hadn’t absorbed anything. It felt pretty much impossible, with the afternoon rush, and most especially with Max’s gaze bearing down on her from where he sat across the busy restaurant.

They’d been engaged in this little standoff ever since he’d walked in The Crashdown—-he watching her intently, she averting her eyes whenever she caught him doing so. So why don’t you just go upstairs then? But Liz knew the answer to that…she ached simply to be near him—even on these terms.

She cast another tentative glance in his direction, only to meet a pair of golden brown eyes staring back at her, full of anger and hurt. Why did his eyes always have to betray so much of what he felt? Instantly, her face grew hot, and she turned back to her books, spread across the counter in front of her.

As she looked down, Liz touched the one thing that had comforted her since the night the other Max had vanished, disappeared completely right from her arms. She closed her eyes and touched the ring. Her wedding ring, given to her one night in Las Vegas…one night in the future, but never to be the past.

But that’s not quite true, she corrected herself. No, she remembered the warmth of his hands, his healing touch, as he’d stood just behind her, and slipped the chain around her neck. This belongs to you, he’d whispered. The ring had glinted in the balcony’s candlelight as she’d caught it between her fingers.
Liz had spun toward him, awareness dawning, and he’d answered by stroking her hair softly, his fingers lingering so tenderly against her neck. It’s your wedding ring. And you have mine. Just not here, not now. He’d stared at her with such intensity, it had shaken her to the very core. Until he broke the spell by placing a feather-light kiss on her forehead. But you will always have my heart.

She’d fingered the worn band with amazement, almost as if it held some kind of magic. Just as she did right now. It was a ring with one simple, beautiful inscription on the inside, written from the heart of two people so incredibly in love that they hadn’t cared about the consequences. Hadn’t worried about their parents, their friends, or even their future. Or their planet, or race, a voice taunted her.

Liz cringed at the thought, and slowly opened her eyes, only to find Maria standing right across the counter from her.

“Babe.” Maria bent down so that her face was level with Liz’s. “What’s up with that look?”

“Nothing, Maria.” Liz tucked a stray hair behind her ear. Anything to avoid Maria’s penetrating gaze.

“No…no. See, I know that look."

“I’m just trying to study for my history final.”

“Interesting. Because that’s the same look I’ve seen on your face ever since you left for Copper Summit last week.”

Liz closed her books. This was getting her nowhere.

“Maria, nothing is wrong. I promise.” There. Be firm, close all avenues of discussion.

“Then how come Max has been sitting behind you for…like more than an hour without even talking to you?”

Liz forced a casual look in Max’s direction. Again, he returned the glance intently, so much pain radiating from his eyes.

“Oh. Well. I don’t know,” Liz turned quickly back to Maria.

“Liz, please.” Maria sighed and planted her elbows firmly on the counter. “I’ve been watching the two of you and this… whatever it is…all afternoon.”

“Well, if you have,” Liz stood with her books, gathering them tightly to her chest. “Then you know that I haven’t been getting much studying done.”

“Okay …so you admit it.” Maria smiled triumphantly.

“That I have a final at 9 am tomorrow?” Liz said, walking toward the back of the restaurant. “Yes.” Maria followed her, meeting her at the end of the counter.

She took Liz’s hand in her’s, holding it up in front of her. “See, I also want to know why this,” She touched Liz’s ring, “appeared on your finger at exactly the same time last week.”

Liz pulled her hand away protectively. “I’m going.” Liz pushed her way through the back door, toward the kitchen.

“I’m following,” Maria called out, pushing the door after her.


Max watched with no small measure of guilt as Liz made her retreat from the Crashdown. And retreat is exactly the right word, he thought. Max had done everything he could to make Liz squirm as she’d sat in her own family’s restaurant.

Not only had he stared her down, but he’d even used the intuitive side of his powers, the ones that were the weakest of all. Isabel had recently begun teaching him about that more psychological part of his gifts, and this was what he’d chosen to do with them. He had used them out of maddening jealousy against the one person he’d never thought he could intentionally harm. Great, Evans. Way to go.

He felt more out of control than he could recall in his life. Not just of events, but of himself, and it was a very disconcerting sensation. Maybe that was the real reason he’d come here today—to try to make sense out of at least something that was happening to him. Unfortunately, he only felt more confused, especially by his own behavior… and by the email Liz had sent him in the middle of the night.

Max sighed wearily, and rubbed a hand across his tired eyes. There wasn’t much point in sitting here torturing himself any longer, so slowly he gathered his books and prepared to leave. He reached inside his leather jacket for his wallet, and his hand brushed against a folded piece of paper.

He had read it many times today, always trying to decipher its cryptic message. It was one reason why he’d felt so angry with Liz. He’d begged her for honesty, and this was how she’d answered—with an enigma.

Slowly he unfolded the piece of paper, and read the printed email yet again.

Max—
I can’t sleep either. So I pulled out Romeo and Juliet, and thought I’d share something from the end of the play…something pertinent. Please, just try to understand.

"Upon thy life I charge thee, What ever thou hearest or seest, stand all aloof, and do not interrupt me in my course. Why I descend into this bed of death is partly to behold my lady's face, but chiefly to take thence from her dead finger a precious ring--a ring that I must use in dear employment--therefore hence be gone."

Try to get some sleep. L.


He stared at the paper. Try to get some sleep. Was she kidding?

Max ran a hand through his hair in agitation. It seemed like she was urging him to stay away from her. What did she mean about not interrupting her in her course? It almost sounded like she was part of some intentional plan. Did she mean Kyle was her course? Max sighed in deep exasperation.

So many unanswered questions.

He’d turned the puzzle over in his mind dozens of times since last night, and still none of it made any sense--yet she’d said it was pertinent. Just more conflicting signals. He crumpled the paper into a tight ball, thinking how much Liz had changed. The Liz he knew would never have sent him a strange email in the middle of the night, something that made no sense— especially not with things like they were between them.

The Liz he knew would never have done that. Suddenly, the truth hit Max like a thundering freight train. How could he have missed it? Liz was trying to tell him something.

Good, because it was time for some answers—and he intended to get them.


The familiar sounds of the restaurant hummed all around them—music, laughter, clanking dishes. How was it possible that she could feel so alone?

Liz opened her locker and pulled out the notebook she’d been looking for. Maria stood closely beside her, tracing her finger along the ragged edge of the metal door.

“Liz, all I’m saying is that everybody is worried about him. Michael and Isabel say they’ve never seen him like this.”

“Has he talked to any of them?” She couldn’t hide the concern she felt at what Maria was telling her. It was worse than she’d even imagined.

“I mean, that might help him,” Liz offered, closing the locker.

“Apparently, he’s shut down completely. And nobody knows why. Did you guys have a fight or something?”

“Not exactly.” Liz lowered her eyes and chewed on her lip.

“What does that mean? Can you be just a bit more specific with me, Liz?”

Liz was quiet for a long moment, and studied Maria. This was her best friend—someone who had known her since childhood. The urge to share the entire bizarre story was overwhelming.

She closed her eyes against it.

“Earth to Liz.” Maria shook Liz’s arm gently. “What’s going on?”

“It’s so….” Liz opened her eyes, and let out a heavy sigh. “…complicated.”

“Yeah,” Maria raised her eyebrows sarcastically. “I gathered that.”

Jimmy poked his head out of the kitchen. “Maria! Orders up! You coming, or what?”

“I’m there!” Maria rolled her eyes. “Well, at least I can tell Michael and Isabel one thing.” She turned to leave, then glanced back at Liz.

“What?” Liz asked.

“That apparently Max isn’t the only one who’s shutting us all out.” She shoved the restaurant door open, leaving Liz alone by her locker.


Max was literally the last person Liz expected to see walk through the door at that moment. Maria had left, then Max had simply appeared in her place. And something about it had completely unnerved her—she’d actually jumped physically at the site of him. Maybe because she was still sorting out all that Maria had just told her.

“Max!” She hated the way her voice sounded so strained. “You…startled me.”

“Sorry,” he looked confused by her response, and shrugged slightly. “Maria said you were back here. I need to talk.” Max pulled the crumpled e-mail from his pocket and handed it to Liz.

She smoothed out the wrinkled paper. “Oh…” She shifted her books awkwardly in her arms, avoiding his gaze.

“Liz, what were you trying to tell me last night? I don’t understand.”

Liz’s heart began to beat wildly and she felt her chest constrict. She hadn’t expected this yet…wasn’t ready for it at all. She had wanted the email to provoke a response, just not this quickly.

“Max….”

He took a purposeful step toward her. “Liz, you’ve been avoiding me…this whole thing…for a week.”

A rushing sound filled Liz’s head, and for a moment she thought she might faint as all the emotions pressed in on her at once. She looked up at Max, willing the swimming sensation to stop. She focused on the familiar brown eyes, ones that had been a harbor for her so many times…and was surprised by what she saw. He looked at her with deep intensity, every emotion shining through his eyes—just like earlier in the restaurant. He wasn’t shut down to her at all.

“Aren’t you even going to answer me, Liz?” He grabbed her arm with surprising strength—not roughness, but firmness of purpose. When he did, Liz instantly felt the connection spark between them--and with alarm she saw that Max had, too. Realization flashed in his eyes. Quickly, she pulled her arm out of his grasp.

“You’re scared….you’re really scared of something, Liz.”

“No…” she shook her head vehemently. “No, I’m not.” Scared that I’m losing you forever. Of even being this near to you right now.

“You are, Liz. I felt it.” Suddenly his voice shifted, becoming low and insistent. “Tell me what it is.”

“Nothing, Max….I’m fine.” She dropped her eyes again, and hugged her books to her chest protectively.

“Then tell me what I just felt. God, Liz, just tell me anything about what’s going on with you,” he snapped.

Their eyes met and for a moment Liz swore the connection would ignite between them again. It was that powerful. And if she ever allowed it to catch hold, he would know everything…about his future self, about how he’d changed her, about Kyle. And she wanted that more than her next breath.

So she walked away from him. She turned her back because it was too soon for the truth.

“I’ve got to go, Max.” She walked toward the stairs, assuming her most detached, rational voice. “I’ve got a history mid-term tomorrow, and…”

Then she heard it…his voice so quiet she nearly missed it. “This is killing me, Liz.”

She froze in her tracks, and slowly turned toward him. All the fire was gone from him now, replaced only by brokenness.

His voice was barely more than a whisper. “Just talk to me…please.”

And she was gone, utterly destroyed.
Moments hung suspended, both of them left without words.
At last she found her voice. “Where?” she rasped, knowing she’d go anywhere he wanted…right into his arms forever, if only he asked.




posted on 29-Sep-2001 2:08:49 PM

PART FIVE

Their eyes met and for a moment Liz swore the connection would ignite between them again. It was that powerful. And if she ever allowed it to catch hold, he would know everything…about his future self, about how he’d changed her, about Kyle. And she wanted that more than her next breath.

So she walked away from him. She turned her back because it was too soon for the truth.

“I’ve got to go, Max.” She stepped toward the stairs, assuming her most detached, rational voice. “I’ve got a history mid-term tomorrow, and…”

Then she heard it…his voice so quiet she nearly missed it. “This is killing me, Liz.”

She froze in her tracks, and slowly turned toward him. All the fire was gone from him now, replaced only by brokenness.

His voice was barely more than a whisper. “Just talk to me…please.”

And she was gone, utterly destroyed.

Moments hung suspended, both of them without words.

At last she found her voice. “Where?” she rasped, knowing she’d go anywhere he wanted…right into his arms forever, if only he asked.

He thought a moment, his brow furrowing slightly as he considered the possibilities. Then the frown was replaced by a faint smile as he found his answer.

“Here,” he replied softly.

“No,” she shook her head firmly, taking a step back from him, her heart thundering within her chest. Not here. No, she couldn’t lose control here…not like this, not like she knew she would.

But he quickly closed the physical distance between them. “Yes, Liz…here,” he whispered, capturing her hand gently within his. “Right here...right now.” He traced his thumb lightly across the back of her hand. “I know you’re ready to tell me the truth.”

He covered her hand within both of his own, and she could feel an incredible heat envelop her, just as it always did whenever Max touched her. It began right between their hands and radiated outward like a giant rolling wave, gaining momentum throughout her entire body. Her face flushed and her eyes watered from the sweeping sensations that moved through her, and like the undertow below the ocean waves, their bond tugged her deeper into him. Oh, God, he was going to know everything now because she couldn’t resist this…what was coming. The pull was too powerful.

Max’s amber eyes met her own, widening with surprise…innocent wonder at what was beginning to unfold between them. She read the unspoken questions in his gaze, felt them as the bond unfurled. He had no idea what was happening…knew this wasn’t a flash, that this was uncharted territory.

Then the connection skittered and sparked, and like wildfire set to desert brush, the flame simply roared to life. She felt everything that was in Max’s heart at that moment, felt it ripple through her, touch her, as she spun deeper into him. Oh, and she felt him coming inside of her, too. He stepped even closer to her, and she heard a rushing noise all around them. She could no longer hear the thrumming sounds of the restaurant. There was only Max, and her senses were totally immersed in him. She reached a hand to his cheek, caressing it tenderly. He closed his eyes and she felt what her touch did to him. He was simply undone…by all of it.

“Liz?” His eyes fluttered open again, questioning.

“Hmm…” she sighed, feeling the soft stubble of his beard beneath her fingers. Every touch, every sensation was magnified.

“What is…this?” he murmured.

Liz stepped nearer and slipped her arms around him, pulling him close. She breathed in the scent of him, felt his heart beating wildly against her chest. Her own heart matched his beat for beat--both their pulses falling into a single rhythm as they became completely one.

Her mind spun with his endless questions, his confusion… his absolute release as they joined like this. He didn’t understand what was happening, didn’t care. Max pressed his lips against the top of Liz’s head, burying his face in her hair.

Another wave hit her, and she knew the unspeakable anguish he’d been carrying for the past week. Kyle in her bed…covers thrown over their bare bodies. Tinkling laughter. Shock. Betrayal. The sensation of her heart being torn from her chest…but it wasn’t her heart… it was his. Not just the past week…the past months. That day at the cave. Images of her running away, down the hill…him losing her forever. One question, echoing endlessly through his mind, over and over. Was it somehow his fault? Oh, God it felt like a knife in the very core of her being.

And just when the weight of his grief began to crush her, she touched the radiant spark of hope that had come alive within him during these past few moments. So warm, so golden…it was the promise of everything he held most dear. The faded embers of his love for her, his dreams-- fanned to life again, because he knew she hadn’t slept with Kyle. And his heart simply sang with it.

The brightest sunlight, rippling between them. Max’s breathing was erratic, his heart hammering against hers. He took her face in his hands, sending shivers across her flushed skin. She was absolutely on fire. He pressed his lips against hers, claiming her mouth with his own, and she could feel him shaking, slight tremors running through his whole body. It occurred to her that they were right in the back of the Crashdown—that her parents might walk in on them at any moment. Not that she cared.

That was her last coherent thought before she felt their souls touch.

She sensed him…a solid presence and it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever known. His lips stilled against hers and neither of them breathed for what felt like an eternity. Neither knew what to do, they were transfixed by the moment.

Slowly, Liz opened her eyes and saw that Max was watching her, sheer amazement dancing across his features. He pulled back and she realized for the first time that tears were streaming down her face. He reached a finger out and traced a damp path across her cheek.

“Oh, Liz,” he whispered. “You…are even more beautiful than I imagined.”

“Max, we’ve got to stop this…”

He leaned his forehead against hers. “Why?” he groaned.

“Because…” she took quick breaths, trying to steady her mind, her pulse. “Anyone could walk in…”

“That’s bad?” he asked helplessly, wiping her tears with his fingers.

“Yeah…” Liz laughed softly, trying desperately to steady her thoughts. “Upstairs…let’s go up…stairs.”

“Okay,” he murmured, pulling her against his chest tightly.

“Okay,” she nodded in agreement. “Then…we’ve got to break this, Max.”

He released her, but threaded his fingers through hers, not ready to let the moment go. She smiled up at him, slowly disentangling her fingers from his.

And everything became perfectly still and quiet between them, as the roar of their connection cooled. But it didn’t grieve her this time, not like with his future self. No, this time she felt a wonderful thrill humming all through her. Like Max had just done something really amazing to her…within her. In a way, he’d just made love to her, right there in the back of her parent’s restaurant, for all the world to see. She smiled giddily at the idea, and smoothed out her hair, trying to compose herself at least a bit.

“I can’t wait for you to explain what just happened.” He met her gaze again, suddenly almost shy with her. “Because I have the feeling you understand it a lot better than I do.”

“Upstairs.” Liz smiled up at him. “Some place more private.”



Max sat on the bottom step to Liz’s apartment, running his hand absently through his hair. Liz had asked him to give her five minutes alone, and he certainly hadn’t needed an explanation for that. Not after what had just happened between them. For that matter, he needed a few moments to sort through the huge avalanche of emotions that he’d just experienced.

One thing was absolutely certain. Liz had not slept with Kyle. But something else had definitely happened to her, something that had changed her profoundly. Irreversibly. And though he didn’t understand how, he felt certain that it was all somehow related to…himself. All through their connection, he’d felt it… there was someone else, but that person didn’t upset him, or frighten him.



Liz bounded up the stairs, her heart simply soaring within her. At that moment, she didn’t care that Max was going to know everything. There had to be some way they could work things out together without it being the end of the world.

She thought of Future Max and what he’d asked of her. He had been desperate, driven, and maybe the plan they’d concocted together hadn’t been the best. Well, that much is obvious, she corrected herself. And what would Future Max have thought about the secret she’d kept from him, especially now that she’d just revealed it to her Max downstairs.

She hadn’t been sure until today, had only had her suspicions, but now she knew beyond any doubt—the two of them hadn’t broken the connection in time that night. He had imparted their bond to her permanently then, and in all probability she had just passed it on to Max downstairs. The notion thrilled her to the core of her being.

She reached the landing, and fumbled for her apartment key, noticing the wedding band slip a bit on her finger. Future Liz had apparently been a tiny bit heavier, because the ring was always sliding around on her finger. Now there’s something to look forward to in my thirties, she thought with a wry laugh. She turned the key in the lock and thought that she couldn’t wait to show Max the ring…the inscription.

Liz stepped into the apartment humming happily, thinking about all the things she wanted to tell Max. She dropped her books on the sofa, contemplating all their many months apart, and how much had remained unspoken, how much there was to share now. She warmed at the very notion of it.

And then every delirious thought died.

A man she’d never seen stood before her bedroom window, and his eyes locked with hers. Cold, lifeless eyes, blacker than darkness. Eyes that in that split second she knew reflected his very soul--and what she saw in them was death.

Her first thought was to run, but she couldn’t seem to move, or even breathe, despite gasping desperately for air. Her lungs burned with the effort.

Like something from her most terrible nightmares, time froze, suspended endlessly before her. There was only the sound of blood rushing in her ears as she turned to flee. But before she could even reach the door, it slammed shut right before her.

It was then that Liz understood just what she was dealing with because she heard his voice.

“Liz Evans. We meet again.”

And she knew that the eyes were only the beginning.

PART SIX

“Could I get a cherry Coke to go, Maria?” Max asked, approaching the counter.

Maria arched an eyebrow. “You’re awfully chipper now.” She leaned her elbows on the counter, leveling her eyes with Max’s conspiratorially. “Things must have gone well in the break room, huh?”

Max smiled faintly, avoiding Maria’s inquisitive gaze. He could feel his face flush, especially since he knew exactly just how well things had gone in the back of the Crashdown. For that matter, he wondered if he looked as overheated as he felt. Could Maria sense what had happened between the two of them…was it that obvious?

He pressed two dollars across the counter, pretending not to notice that Maria was expecting details of his conversation with Liz. Maria placed an empty glass under the coke dispenser, then turned to face Max.

“So?” she asked, not relenting.

Max smiled slowly in return, but remained silent for a moment. “It went well,” he replied finally, shoving his hands into his pockets. “Really well.”

“And?” she asked.

“There’s not much else to tell.” He shrugged evasively.

Maria sighed in exasperation, and leaned closer to him across the counter. “Max,
let me clue you in here.”

“On what?” Max furrowed his brow in confusion.

“See, Maria likes to know details. Maria does not like it when her best friend and her other very good friend skip these things.” She smiled encouragingly. “So spill.”

Max laughed and Maria turned around to hand him his cherry Coke. He took the cup thoughtfully.

“What has Liz told you? I mean, do you know…” his voice trailed off, and he flinched at the unspoken thought. Even though he knew the truth about Kyle now, actually stating it out loud was still too painful.

“Not a word.” Maria shook her head emphatically. “There’s only been all this gloomy silence between the two of you.”

“That’s strange…” Max rolled the straw between his fingers thoughtfully. “Why wouldn’t she have at least told you?”

Maria grabbed her order pad and slapped Max with it, punctuating each word. “Told. Me. What?”

Max groaned and ran a hand through his hair. Maria would never let it go, and besides, maybe she’d have some idea why Liz would have wanted to deceive him so strangely. And that might help when he talked to Liz upstairs.

“Well…I thought she slept with Kyle.” His voice was incredibly quiet. Saying it out loud felt like a knife through his heart. “But she didn’t… something else is going on, something I don’t yet understand.”

Maria stared at Max for a long silent moment, her face unreadable, and he felt panic begin to rise up in his chest. Maybe she knew something about this? Maybe it really had been true after all?

And then she began to laugh outrageously, which completely disconcerted him-- he couldn’t have imagined that she would react like this, especially to something that had felt so incredibly humiliating and painful.

“Maria. Please…it’s not funny.”

“It’s funny to me, babe. Kyle Valenti? Kyle? God, I could have put you out of your misery a week ago. Liz would never do something like that—you know that.”

“I know it now. But I saw them, Maria, and it was hard to know what to think...”

“Saw them?”

“Well, not exactly. I mean they were in bed together,” he rubbed his tired eyes. “See, this is why I still have to talk to Liz. I know that nothing happened…she just wanted me to believe something had. But what I don’t know is why.”

“Max, Liz Parker has only ever loved one guy. One. And that’s you.” She met his gaze intently. “Whatever you saw…there’s some kind of explanation.”

“I know.” Max nodded thoughtfully.

“Hey, and it’s probably some weird alien thing!” Maria laughed.

Max started to laugh, but was cut short by an excruciating pain that began to throb suddenly behind his eyes. It felt like something exploding inside his brain, as it hit him with vigorous, sharp jolts. He rubbed at his temples, trying to ease the shooting pain.

Maria’s smile faded, replaced by concern. “Max? Are you okay?”

“Yeah...just a headache”

He fumbled his way to a stool, trying to beat back the throbbing pain as he sat down. He tried to clear his mind, but was hit with a terrible sensation of dread. Icy fingers reached inside him, taking hold of his heart, and literally choked the breath out of him. His lungs burned with every ragged breath he drew in.

This was not a flash. It was something deep within him…connected to him somehow. He looked to Maria, trying to sort through the rapidly firing impressions, and saw worry reflected in her eyes.

“Max?” She rubbed his arm soothingly.

Then the swirling sensations formed a single thought, and everything came dreadfully into focus.

God, it was Liz. Something was wrong with Liz.



“Why did he come back to you? And where is he now?”

“He?” Liz asked, borrowing time.

The stranger circled her, pacing around her like a wildcat stalking its prey. Liz stood frozen, her back to the bedroom door.

“What was Max trying to do by coming back to this particular time? What is so critical about now?”

Thoughts raced one after another through her mind, but one thing was clear--this man was not from her time, and probably from 2014. She remained silent, willing herself to breathe, as he fired off questions rapidly.

“Where is he?” the stranger asked, leveling her with his icy gaze.

Liz smiled faintly in victory. “I’m not telling you anything.”

“You’re so pathetic. Both of you…” he sneered. “Your precious husband sacrificed everything to protect the location of the granilith…his family, friends, even his throne.” The stranger shook his head derisively. “And then at the very last moment he got careless. Betrayed its location by coming back to you.”

Liz gasped. “What do you mean?”

“I mean I followed both of you there. To the granilith. And after he used it to come back through time, I followed him here. To you.”

He stepped closer to Liz, crowding her against the door.

“In the end, he couldn’t protect the granilith.” His voice grew hushed, almost seductive. “And he couldn’t even protect you.”

“That’s not true.” Liz shook her head forcefully.

“Are you so sure? You weren’t there…” he reached out and touched a stray strand of her hair, causing chill bumps to rise on Liz’s skin. “Once he left, there was only the two of us, my dear…I enjoyed sifting your mind to learn his pitiful plan.”

Liz’s breath caught in her throat, and she flinched as the stranger let his fingertips linger on her face, tracing a path down the skin of her neck.

“But you were strong. You shut me out…at least from that area of your mind.” He looked at her significantly. “I couldn’t learn why he came back…but now you’re going to tell me that.” His fingers stopped at the base of Liz’s throat, and she could feel her pulse throbbing underneath them. His black eyes met hers forcefully, and she couldn’t seem to look away. Why did he have so much power over her?

“And then you’re going to tell me where to find him.” He let his fingers drop.

Oh, God… he’s here for Max.
And Max is probably going to walk in the door in a matter of moments.


“I don’t even know who you are,” she choked.

“True. But I know you extremely well, Liz Evans.” He stared at her thoughtfully, and his dark eyes flared for a moment with an emotion she couldn’t read.

“You may call me Marco,” he offered.

She noticed that a smooth scar cut through his eyebrow, causing a shocking white line to divide the dark hair. The silvery scar ran up across his forehead, disappearing into his hairline, and Liz had the feeling that it was important. It was almost like she knew its significance, but it kept floating just beyond her grasp.

Liz met his gaze, and tried to form some kind of plan. She had to protect Max at all costs, had to lure this stranger away from him. She shivered because somehow she knew that part of Marco’s mission was to end Max’s life, and then to set about changing the course of the future in his own way.

And with that, she made a decision.

“Let’s go,” she said.

He arched an eyebrow curiously in response.

“I can take you to him,” she said, “but he’s not here.”

“Right now, I only want the one who came back. My first business is with him.”

Liz nodded. “I understand.”

She had no idea where she was going to take this man—only that she had to get him out of the apartment right now. And she also guessed it was a good idea to continue the illusion that Future Max hadn’t yet disappeared. Otherwise, all his energy would shift toward finding her Max. One question plagued her, though—why hadn’t Marco disappeared when they changed the future? Why had he somehow been impervious to the forces of time that had caused Future Max to vanish that night one week ago?


Max rushed into Liz’s apartment and met a solid wall of emotions, every last one pulsing over him, through him…suffocating him. His connection with Liz was wide open as he stood in the doorway of her room.

But there was no Liz. No sight of her at all.

There was only an open window, where a curtain fluttered listlessly.

“Liz?” he called out hopefully, as he stepped into the rest of the apartment.

“Liz!” Maria pushed past him.

Their cries were met with empty silence, as Max stepped back into Liz’s bedroom. Maria grabbed his arm and looked up at him for some kind of assurance.

“Max? Where is she?”

“I don’t know,” he shook his head, stepping past her, circling Liz’s room desperately.

As he turned toward Maria, the air crackled with energy and simply came alive around him. The floor shifted beneath his feet as he caught a glimpse of Liz in front of her bedroom mirror, with a wedding veil on. Before he could make sense of it, the image dissolved and faded into another…Liz in her bathroom, sobbing.

He jerked his head toward the bathroom, as if he might actually see her standing there, and flashed on the strangest vision of all. He saw someone who looked very much like himself, but older…different. Max began to shake as the air all around him cooled by quick degrees. What was happening to him? What had happened in this room that had been so intense it had left an actual imprint in the atmosphere?

And then the headache exploded behind his eyes again, nearly blinding him this time.

He collapsed onto Liz’s bed and buried his face in his hands. Max forced his mind to still so that he could try to read all the emotions and images he was getting from the room. If he could just sort through them, then maybe he could figure out what was going on. He closed his eyes and took deep breaths.

“Max? We can’t just sit here!” Maria stomped impatiently.

Max looked up at her slowly, raising his face out of his hands. “Maria, I…I’m getting things…off this room. Things that might help us find Liz.”

“What kind of things?”

“Emotions…images. Maria…you should look around in here. See what you can find.”

“Why not the rest of the apartment?”

Max closed his eyes. Grief…a solid wall of grief. Terror. Delirious ecstasy…more grief. The impressions washed over him quickly, but one in particular kept surfacing out of the murky depths. Terror.

Liz’s terror…shooting through the room like ungrounded electric current.

And it was the freshest, most recent imprint he was picking up.


He shook his head. “No, this room is the key.” And he buried his face in his hands again, willing the room to stop spinning. He had to quiet himself and it was going to be hard, especially because he recognized the emotions in this room.

He’d only known absolute terror like this one other time in his life—in the white room.



PART SEVEN


Liz turned the Jetta down another street, her hands trembling against the steering wheel. Thank God Maria had given her a spare car key some time ago. She stole a furtive glance at Marco, who rode beside her, staring coolly at the road ahead. They’d been driving aimlessly for a good ten minutes, and she was running out of time. The problem was, she literally had no idea where she could take him--was simply borrowing time and grasping for some plan.

The only thing she knew was to keep him away from Max… at least as long as she could. She wondered how well Marco even knew Roswell…had he known where she and Max were living in 2014? For that matter, where had they been living? Was that where he thought she was taking him? She regretted she’d not pressed Future Max for more details…anything would help her now, especially knowing more who she was dealing with.

“We’ve already been down this street,” he snapped.

“No… no we haven’t.” Liz shook her head firmly.

He grabbed her arm roughly, causing her to flinch in sudden pain. His sheer physical strength was jarring.

“Don’t play games with me, Liz.”

“I’m not.”

“You’re trying to protect him. It won’t work.”

Liz chewed her lip, tears welling up in her eyes. “I don’t understand any of this, Marco…You need to help me understand, then maybe I can help you.”

“You understand that I want Max.”

She began to shiver under his wrenching grip, and forced herself to keep the car on the road.

It was time to take an incredible risk.




“I’m not finding anything, Max.” Maria sighed. “Maybe its time to call Valenti?”

“No, not yet,” Max murmured. “Keep looking, okay?”

He sat on Liz’s bed, head buried in his hands, determined to make sense of the rushing images and emotions.

Liz putting his white roses in a vase… Kyle in her bed… their laughter. And again, the person who looked so much like himself. That single image resurfaced repeatedly, and each time awareness danced closer and closer to him. He just couldn’t quite lay hold of what it all meant.

“Max?” Maria called from where she stood by Liz’s dresser.

“Hmm…” Max slowly raised his face from his hands.

“Max, you need to see this.” Maria held up something small, that glinted in the light.

“What is it?” Max stepped toward her.

“I think it’s something important,” she said, handing him the simple gold band.

Max took the ring tentatively. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, this appeared on Liz’s finger exactly a week ago—or didn’t you notice?”

He shook his head, turning the ring over in his fingers. It looked like a wedding band.

“Max, Liz has walked around in a daze for the past week. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve caught her touching or looking at this ring.”

“What are you thinking, Maria?” He furrowed his eyebrows in thought.

“Well, I’m wondering why she’s not wearing it right now.” Maria hugged herself protectively.

Max examined the ring more closely, then something caught his eye.

“There’s an inscription on the inside.” He held the ring up to the light so he could read the tiny letters.

07-12-02 Sonnet 29:13-14

July 12, 2002. That was a year and a half from now—yet the ring looked very well worn.

“What does it say?” Maria asked, trying to take the ring from him. But he closed it deep in his palm, and turned from her in a daze.

The images were beginning to form a single, haunting thought.

They’d read Shakespeare’s 29th Sonnet during the first week of school this year, when she’d been shutting him out so thoroughly. He’d scribbled the last lines on a note and passed it to her during English class. He still recalled the words now.

For thy sweet love remembered such wealth brings --that then I scorn to change my state with kings.

And he’d meant it—he didn’t care about his supposed destiny as a king, or that Tess was meant to be his wife. All he wanted was Liz… She was all he’d ever wanted, and that’s what he’d written in the note, too. But she hadn’t responded, had just slid it silently into her notebook, without so much as a glance in his direction, leaving his heart thudding dully. He’d wondered that day if he would ever be able to get through to her.

But this ring gave him the idea that maybe he had.

“Well?” Maria stomped. “What does it say, Max?”

He stared at the ring in disbelief, as all the random images began to come into focus. This was their wedding ring…from the future. That’s why he’d seen an image of someone who looked so much like himself, and had sensed that same person during his connection with Liz downstairs.

Chill bumps formed on his skin, as he handed the ring to Maria. “Read it,” he said, and walked to Liz’s window. “And tell me what you think it means.”

As he looked out on Liz’s balcony, he heard her clear voice, as if she were right beside him.

Don’t you know what you are to me? What you’re always going to be to me? You’re the love of my life…

“Why would this have some future date on it…unless?” Maria asked. He turned to find her staring at him, her face pale. “Oh my God,” she whispered.

“Its her wedding ring…that sonnet is something I wrote to her once.” Max lowered his eyes. “I mean, I didn’t write it… but I put it in a note to her.”

“I don’t get what you’re saying at all, Max.” Maria stood frozen.

“I’m saying…we were married. In 2002.”




“What do you mean, he’s gone?” Marco thundered, pulling roughly on her arm. She nearly swerved into oncoming traffic.

“Stop it! You’re going to make me have an accident.”

“Pull over right now.”

Liz had begun heading out of town on the highway, so she pulled over onto the shoulder, causing dust to fly up around the car. She turned to Marco, whose dark eyes were flashing with anger.

“Now explain what you mean.”

“Max from your time is gone… He disappeared a week ago.”

“Disappeared?”

“When we changed the future, he just…disappeared. I don’t understand why you’re still here, either.”

Marco placed his hands roughly on both sides of Liz’s face and pulled her toward him. “And you’re just now telling me this because…” He met her eyes intently and she could almost feel him drawing things out of her, some part of her mind giving way to him. She began to shake.

“I didn’t know what to do,” she whispered in a small voice, and he tightened his grip on her. Drawing his face within inches of her own, black eyes bore
into her’s.

“Liz. You are such a disappointment to me. To think how many years I’ve admired you.”

Liz remained silent, as her tremors grew stronger. Who was this man? And what would he do with her now?

He sat in thoughtful silence, clearly considering his next move. His eyes shifted from hers in slight hesitation, and Liz was struck by the odd notion that he was frightened—was disconcerted by his very own existence. In that moment, he seemed strangely vulnerable, and she hoped that was something she could use to her advantage.

“I should not be here if Max disappeared when the future changed,” he stated matter of factly. He furrowed his brows in thought. “We didn’t understand how to set the granilith precisely…perhaps something went wrong.”

Liz suddenly understood exactly what had happened. There was only one plausible explanation for his existence, since the future had been altered and he should have ceased to exist.

“I think I know what might have happened,” she offered hopefully. Maybe if she helped him, she could gain his trust, and that could only help Max.

“The only way you could still be here is if you were coming through the tear in time space at precisely the moment the future was altered. That would have somehow prevented your disappearance, since theoretically you would have been existing outside of time at that moment.”

“Smart, Liz…very smart.” Then a slow smile spread across his face. “And quite convenient for me.”

He stared at her, considering his next move.

“So I see now that my strategy has been all wrong. My focus has been on the wrong Max.” He slipped his hands firmly onto her head. “And now I will learn all about yours”

Marco closed his eyes, and Liz felt an electric sensation shoot through her mind, then terrible pain. He flinched, and his expressions changed rapidly, as she felt her mind being sucked of something, almost like a giant vacuum were engulfing her thoughts. His eyes flew open suddenly, growing wide.

“You are not Liz Evans,” he whispered fiercely. “Not the wife of the leader of the rebellion.”

Liz drew her breath in sharply, as he dropped his hands away.

“You are only a seventeen year old girl. And that means Max will be easy to defeat.”




posted on 29-Sep-2001 2:25:10 PM
PART EIGHT

Maria and Max stood in Liz’s bedroom, staring at one another in silence, neither of them knowing what to say next. Maria looked down at the ring again, then began to shake her head, laughing softly.
“Man. Knowing you guys just gets weirder and weirder.”

“I know it sounds crazy, Maria, but it’s true.”

“No, I believe you.” She walked to Max and handed him the ring. “Just another example of how my brain checked out about a year ago.”

“And I know it relates somehow to Liz’s disappearance.” Max felt his heart skip a beat, and he took Maria’s hand in his. “I’m really worried about her,” he said in a low voice.

“What do you mean?” Her eyes flew to his, her expression growing serious.

“Whatever happened in here… to her.” Max glanced around the room as though searching for something. “When we first walked in I could feel it… her fear.”

“Well, what do we do now?” Maria breathed.

Max lowered his head, thinking hard. “First let’s call Valenti, then let’s get Isabel and Michael.” Max brushed a hand over his eyes, sighing heavily. “God, Maria… I don’t know.”

Maria squeezed his hand reassuringly. “Max, we will find her. We have to.”

He met her determined gaze. “I know.” He blew out a breath. “But how?”

Maria raised her eyebrows hopefully. “Maybe Isabel could dreamwalk her.”

Max shook his head. “Only if Liz is asleep.”

“No, no,” Maria tightened her grip on his hand. “Maybe she can… when you were in the White Room she reached you—“

“I was drugged, Maria.”

She cast her eyes downward. “Don’t you at least want to try, Max?”

He pulled his hand from Maria’s and began to pace. “Of course I do! You know what she is to me.”

“Well, then we have to try something, Max,” she whispered. “And right now we don’t have much to go on.”




Marco pulled Liz roughly by the hand, guiding her up the steep incline of the rocks. Briefly blinded by the setting desert sun, she stumbled, scraping her knee as she caught herself on the jagged surface.

“Come on, Liz.” He jerked her hand roughly, pulling her to her feet.

“Would you give me a minute?” She hissed.

He paused momentarily as she examined her knee, which was raw and bleeding. Marco dropped his gaze to her leg, and for a moment seemed to hesitate.

“Let’s keep going.” He nodded his head in the direction of the rocks above.

“Going where?” She asked, staring up ahead of them.

“ Now Liz.” He stopped, casting a look over his shoulder at her. “You know exactly where you are.”

“No.” She shook her head, hoping she seemed convincing. “Where is this place?” She didn’t want to give anything away if she didn’t have to.

He stopped and turned back to her, pulling her roughly against him. “Don’t forget that I’ve been inside your mind.” His dark eyes became fiery. “So there’s nothing you can keep from me, nothing that is hidden, my dear.”

“Okay, then where are we?” She asked, refusing to back down.

“You’re testing me,” he stated matter-of-factly, an uneven smile forming. She noticed that he had a dimple, which struck her as ironic for someone who rarely had reason to smile.

“Yes.” A smile formed on her own lips. “I am.”

“The granilith chamber,” he ground out, raising his eyebrows. She flinched at the words because this meant he really did know where they were. But of course he did, since he’d followed them there in 2014. Why should she be surprised that he knew the granilith’s exact location?

“Why are we going there?” she asked softly.

He drew his face within inches of her own, and she could feel his warm breath against her face. “Because that is where we’ll wait for Max.”




“So you’re saying what, Maxwell?” Michael paced the length of his apartment yet again. Isabel sat on his sofa, hugging her knees, watching Max where he stood by the bar. Max had relayed everything that had happened, everything he’d seen in Liz’s room, and had seemed so calm. Too calm, really. She tried to read his expressions, but kept coming up empty-handed. What he was saying sounded unbelievable, yet she knew Max, and he would never just invent something like this.

Max sighed heavily and raked a hand through his hair. “I’m saying that someone took Liz, Michael.”

“No. You’re saying some half-baked crazy thing about time travel.”

“Yes.” Max sighed wearily. “I am.”

Michael stopped his pacing within inches of Max. “And you’re basing this all on some ring?” He furrowed his brows as he stared at Max.

“No, Michael, I’m basing it on….” Max closed his eyes and rubbed them for a moment. “A lot of things… there’s a lot you don’t know about the past week.”

“Well, how about filling us in on these pertinent details, huh?”

“Michael… a lot of it’s personal…between Liz and me, but what I’m saying about this future version of me is true. And it has something to do with whoever took her.”

“Oh, well that’s just great, Maxwell. Great—really gives us a lot to go on. You know, you’re not the only one who cares about Liz…we all do.”

Maria moved toward Michael and placed a calming hand on his arm. “Michael….”

“Well, we know they took the Jetta. It was missing from the back of the Crashdown,” Max said.

“And you’re just now telling us this?” Michael snapped.

“I can’t believe you’re pulling this crap at a time like this.” Max stared at Michael in disbelief. “I called Valenti and he’s already put a trace out on the car.”

Isabel could see where this conversation was headed. She’d seen this play out too many times before, and from the look on Max’s face, the calm façade was about to crumble at any moment. Michael couldn’t push him like this, not right now. Isabel sprung from where she’d been sitting quietly on the sofa. “Can I just talk to my brother alone for a moment? Please?”

Michael turned to her in disbelief. “We need to come up with a game plan, Isabel, and now.”

“I know. But first let me just talk to Max for a moment.”

“Fine,” Michael said tightly, and walked toward the door to his apartment. “I’ll be outside calling Valenti, so maybe someone can actually find Liz.” Maria followed him to the door.

“We’ll be back in a few minutes, okay?” Maria said softly, looking at both of them.




Max and Isabel sat on Michael’s sofa, both staring at the ring in Max’s open palm. He had no idea what their next move should be, but the ring definitely seemed to be a clue.

“I just don’t get him. I mean, I know she’s his friend, but Liz is my…” his voice trailed off. What was Liz exactly? His girlfriend? His wife? Was she really anything at all that he could be easily defined at this point?

“You know how he is… Liz is important to him. Probably more than you’d guess.”

Isabel took the ring tentatively from Max’s hand, and turned it between her fingers.

“Unbelievable,” Isabel whispered in wonder, holding the ring to the light. “And you saw this future version of yourself?”

“Just flashes. Images really, but….” Max hesitated.

“What aren’t you telling me, Max?” Isabel looked at him pointedly.

Max dropped his eyes, staring at the ring. Isabel had to know the rest, because it might somehow help them find Liz. “Well, earlier when I was with Liz …I felt him.”

“Felt him?” Isabel coughed. “I’m sorry, Max, but that’s just too weird. Could you tell me what you’re really saying?”

Max smiled faintly. “Liz and I connected earlier, Isabel.” He looked up at her, feeling his face grow warm, embarrassed to share the intimate details with his sister. “I mean something very different… something way beyond what’s happened between us before.”

“How beyond?”

“Well, we kind of became one.” Max sighed, struggling for the right words. “I don’t know how else to describe it…. I knew her thoughts—and I guess she knew mine.” He started to feel a warmth spread through his chest at the mere memory of what had happened. It began to ripple through him, spreading through his whole body in waves. He cleared his throat, attempting to calm the sensations that were beginning within him.

“I knew things about her…” He hesitated, because he didn’t want to tell her about Kyle and what he’d seen that terrible night. “And I did feel this man. Saw him…like me but older. It didn’t make sense until Maria showed me this.” He touched the ring.

Isabel sat quietly beside him and Max glanced at her. Her brows were furrowed in heavy thought.

“Do you think you could connect with her now?”

Max’s heart raced within him, and he felt suddenly afraid. “Maybe you should try dreamwalking her first, Iz.”

“Max, if you connected that strongly with her before, you might be able to do it again.” She placed her hand gently on his arm.

“Okay.” He nodded quietly. “But I’m just not sure how to do it… since we’re not together.”

“Well, why don’t you start by focusing on the ring?”

“Alright,” he said, staring down at it where it glittered in his palm. It was amazing to think that this had belonged to Liz…that they’d been married for a long time in some other life.

He closed his eyes, holding the gold ring tightly. Oh, Liz. Please let me reach you.

He saw the two of them in the granilith chamber, removing their wedding bands and exchanging them. They were clinging to each other as if their very lives depended on it. He heard Liz’s voice floating to him from a distance.

Max, if you don’t do this, we’re going to die. Everyone will…Max, you have to do this. You have to try it.

Then the image dissolved into blackness and he couldn’t see anything else. His eyes flew open.

He turned to Isabel, his heart thundering. “It was the granilith. They used it somehow.”

“They?”

“Our future selves…. That’s how I came back in time.”

Isabel nodded, her eyes meeting Max’s firmly. “Good, Max. But now try again. You’ve got to try to connect with her somehow.”

He closed his eyes again and took deep breaths, working to clear his mind. He began to reach for Liz, groping blindly in the dark for her, in the desperate hope that he’d be able to feel her somehow. But like some shrouded figure in a dream, their connection kept eluding him, darting just beyond his grasp. More deep breaths, more darkness… then there was the faintest spark. His chest began to grow warm, and his face flushed instantly…but he saw nothing.

Then just as quickly as the connection had flared, it faded dully. Fear gripped his heart as his entire body cooled, leaving only the painful absence of Liz. Isabel must have sensed what was happening, because she placed her hand softly on his, lending her power to his own. He felt it surge through him instantly, adding strength and dimension to what was happening within him. His body began to hum with quiet energy, and he reached again through the blackness for Liz.

That was when he saw her, sitting on a smooth gray floor, hugging her knees tightly against her chest. Even though her lips weren’t moving, he could hear her whispering his name, over and over like a mantra, trying desperately to make the connection from her own end. But he also knew she wasn’t focusing on it fully, because there was someone in front of her, talking to her. If only he could see that someone.



Liz sat on the cold floor of the granilith chamber, leaning against the wall. She hugged her knees tightly against her chest, making herself as small as possible-- almost willing herself to disappear. Silently in her mind she drummed one word over and over. Max. Max. Max.

If she could just connect with him, then they might all come out of this alive. Especially Max.

Marco sprawled silently against the wall opposite her, his long legs extended in front of him. She propped her chin on her knees, and stared silently at his weathered black boots--anything to avoid his cold eyes. And she could definitely feel them beating into her. She noticed that one of his boots had a long gash in the side, which reminded her of his scar, and she wondered again why it felt so familiar and important.

“How’d you get that scar?” She ventured, raising her eyes to meet his tentatively.

He stared back at her for a long, thoughtful moment. At first she thought he wasn’t even going to reply. “That’s an odd question, Liz.”

She shrugged, dropping her eyes again, and began to trace her finger in little circular patterns on the smooth floor. Finally she spoke again. “Well, then here’s another one. What are we doing here?”

“I like the first question better.”

She glanced up again and he seemed to be gazing at some distant point. Liz was more than a little surprised by the mixture of emotions she saw flashing across his features. Sadness, regret… emptiness.

Then his eyes focused on her own, and he grew quickly guarded.

“Yet I shall answer the second one,” he said, sounding strangely formal. He shifted where he sat on the floor, sitting more upright. “We’re going to call Max in a few minutes and have him meet us here.”

“Why are you waiting at all? Why not just call him now?”

“Ah, well see, there’s reason to my madness, my dear.” His eyes searched hers. “I want to give him time to know you’re really gone, because his fear for you will be his weakness.”

“Why do you want to destroy Max? Are you a skin?”

He let out a deep, gravelly laugh, something she never expected. “I’ll choose not to take that as an insult,” He smiled his strange half-smile. “No, I’m a hybrid. Just like you and Max.”

Just like you and Max.

She would have sworn that her heart literally stopped beating.

Then it began to hammer within her crazily, as the room nearly faded to black around her.

Finally she found her voice. “Like Max, you mean,” she rasped.

Marco’s eyebrows drew together in confusion as he studied her. “Like you, Max…all of you.” She saw awareness grow in his expression and his eyebrows arched. “Liz… don’t you know what you are? Do you not know yet?” His surprise seemed genuine.

She felt hot tears begin to sting behind her eyes, as anger began to roil within her. “What kind of game are you trying to play with me?” she hissed.

He stared back at her, his expression guarded and unreadable.

“I was merely answering your question as to my genetic disposition.” He cleared his throat with a wry laugh. “I did not expect to bump into something so…awkward, shall I say? As your not knowing what species you belong to.” He bowed his head dramatically. “I do hope you’ll forgive my indiscretion.”

“What you’re saying… it can’t be true. It’s impossible.” She felt the tears begin to spill down her cheeks.

“Liz, it is very much possible because it is who you are.”

“I have human cells… human blood.”

“Your composition is more human than the others because your pod was defective. You came out earlier than the rest of them.”

Liz began to shake uncontrollably. “No, this isn’t true.” Liz shook her head vehemently. “There’s no way you could even know this at all.”

“Actually, I know firsthand that it is the truth.”

“How?” she rasped.

“Because in the year 2006 I was sent to serve as your protector.” He met her eyes with a steady gaze. “For you and Max. It was what I was engineered for.”

Liz swiped at the tears, and buried her face in her knees. She didn’t want Marco to know that his bizarre tactic was unnerving her so badly. Well, surely he already knew that? Yet something deep within her ignited at his words, knew that they were true…. Had somehow always known. Slowly she raised her head from her knees again, and found Marco studying her coolly.

“If that was your mission, then why are you here to destroy Max?”

Marco rose slowly, brushing off his faded blue jeans, and began to slowly walk the length of the chamber. “Because that’s what Kivar has asked me to do. And I serve him now, not Max.”



PART NINE

Max pressed his eyes closed, and allowed Isabel’s power to bolster his own. He’d sat still for several silent moments, sensing their collective energy gather strength. During that time, he’d simply watched Liz where she sat on the floor... The floor of what? Where? It almost looked familiar, but the outlines were too vaguely defined. So he’d waited, allowing the buzzing energy to grow within him before pushing forward toward her. But he could feel that the moment to attempt it was nearly upon him.

Liz began to come more clearly into focus, and suddenly the haziness around her image parted. He walked toward her and knelt beside her on the floor, but she was busy talking, and even though he kept repeating her name, she couldn’t hear him.

Liz. Liz, sweetheart.

No, she was involved in a very deep conversation, and though he couldn’t hear what was being said, he knew she wasn’t aware of him. Max knew he was little more than a mist to her...or a ghost. That thought sent a shiver up his spine.

She buried her face in her knees, and he could see that she was fighting tears. Who was hurting her?

He looked all around where they sat, but couldn’t make out any forms. Then she became quiet, so he tried again.

He placed his hand tenderly on her back and began to rub. With every caress, he began to feel a fire grow in his stomach. Slowly Liz lifted her head and looked around her, as if she expected to see who had touched her. He saw little goose bumps shoot across her arms. He hadn’t made the connection yet, but he was very close.

He placed his hands on top of her own and whispered her name.

Liz.

No answer.

The heat that had begun in his stomach began to grow, radiating outward. Now he felt it in every part of his body—he was burning up. Again, Liz looked around her in confusion, unsure of what was happening. She buried her face in her hands, and he moved in front of her. Gently, he placed his hands on top of her head, allowing the heat and energy that had been building up inside him to flood her.

Liz dropped her hands, her eyes meeting his desperately. And the connection between them opened wide.

Max, are you really...here?

No, Isabel has helped me dreamwalk you.

But I’m not asleep.

No, but...well, it’s something like a vision. That was the only way I could connect with you.


Max looked around them and saw instantly where Liz was. The granilith chamber.

Why are you here? Who has taken you here?

Oh, Max...he works for Kivar. He’s not from this time—it’s all such a long story.

What does he want with you?

He doesn’t want me...he wants you. You can’t come here, no matter what, Max. Send Michael. You can’t come.

You know I can’t do that.

No, Max. No...don’t you see? You’re the one he wants. It’s why he took me.


Max looked around the chamber again, and this time saw a figure. He was over six feet tall, with dark features. Her captor was pacing the length of the chamber slowly, studying Liz where she sat on the floor. Max rose to confront him, feeling the energy begin to escalate within him. He raised his hand, ready to kill this man for what he was doing to Liz.

Then he remembered. He wasn’t even there, couldn’t do anything to protect Liz at all until he got there. He knelt back in front of her again and saw that tears were streaming down her face.

Please, Max. If you come, he’ll kill you. It’s what he wants.

He cupped her face in his hands, and pressed his lips against her forehead. Shh... nothing’s going to happen to me.

Max, his name is Marco. He was our protector...but something went really wrong. I don’t know what.

Suddenly darkness began to form around Liz and he felt himself being pressed away from her. He saw that Marco was standing over her now, staring down at her, talking. What was he saying?

“Liz, what’s going on?” It was Marco’s voice, deep and throaty. And he sounded angry with her.

Then everything faded to black



Isabel stared at Max, and tried not to panic. He was absolutely burning up, and his breathing was heavy and erratic. More important, he’d been sitting like that, with his eyes closed for a good twenty minutes. Michael and Maria had stood watching both of them for at least ten minutes, neither speaking for fear of breaking the connection. Michael kept looking at Isabel, raising his eyebrows questioningly, and she could only shake her head and shrug. This wasn’t like her dreamwalking. This wasn’t like anything she’d ever seen. Max had simply gone some place where she couldn’t find him.

But she hadn’t felt afraid of it until the past few minutes, when his hand had begun to tremble within her own. Then the tremors had taken over his whole body, so she’d started whispering his name softly, trying to pull him back out of whatever this was. When that hadn’t worked, they’d all begun to panic, sharing quiet glances around the room. She knew they all had the same unspoken thought—maybe he’d gone...some place and couldn’t pull out.

Michael crouched in front of them. “Isabel, what’s going on?” he hissed. “This is taking too long.”

“I know Michael. I know.” She glanced at Max again, and placed her hand to his cheek. “God, he’s burning up.” She looked back to Michael and Maria. “Something’s wrong here.”

Michael placed both hands on Max’s shoulders. “Max,” he said firmly, but there was no change at all.

Michael turned back to Isabel. “You’ve got to do something about this, Isabel.”

“Like what, Michael? I don’t even know what this is, okay?”

She pulled her hand out of Max’s tight grip, and turned to him. His brows were furrowed in deep concentration, as if listening to a very intense conversation. Then his expression changed, as some emotion she couldn’t identify flashed across his features. He began to shake his head.

“No,” he whispered hoarsely. “No.” Then his eyes fluttered open, and he met their expectant gazes immediately. “I saw her.” He gasped for breath. “She’s at the granilith.”



Marco stood over Liz where she was huddled on the floor of the granilith chamber. He’d been watching her from across the room for some time, and had begun to wonder why she was so quiet. Her head was lowered, face buried in her knees, and deathly still. At first he’d thought she was simply crying. Then a nagging thought had begun to hound him.

Her connection with Max.

They weren’t married yet, so he didn’t know if their bond was anything like it had become in later years—or if they even had it yet at all. But what if they did? And what if she was trying to make that connection right now?

“Liz, what are you doing?” he demanded. She’d kept her head lowered, her face hidden from him.

“N-nothing,” she stammered.

And he knew. He jerked her roughly by the arm, and her dazed eyes flew to his.

“You were trying to reach Max,” he stated, his eyes narrowing.

She shook her head in denial, tears pooling in her eyes, but he’d seen this look on both their faces—Max’s and hers-- too many times before.

“Liz, I know exactly what you were doing,” he said firmly, and knelt in front of her. Her dark eyes were full of fear as they met his own. God, she thought he would really hurt her. That he could even do that if he tried. No matter what had happened in the past eight years, that was something he knew he was still incapable of. At least there was one thing still on the list.

But Max was another story altogether.

“Why are you doing this?” she whispered. “What happened to make you turn from us?”

He closed his eyes and willed himself to remain silent. He had to stay focused, and he refused to let her gain control of him by dredging up the past.

He opened his eyes again, and saw her studying him intently, waiting for some kind of answer. Her gaze, more than any other, had always had the capacity to unsettle him...even now when she was just a mere seventeen-year-old.

“So is Max on the way?” he asked quietly, rising again.
She remained silent, and he watched her as he slowly walked the perimeter of the chamber. Then he began to laugh.

Of course Max was on the way—that’s how connected they’d always been. No one needed to remind him of that.

“Well, at least that will save me a phone call,” he said, and felt something like a shiver of anticipation run through him.

He hadn’t stood face to face with Max Evans—any version of him-- in more than four years.



Liz hadn’t understood what she’d seen in Marco’s eyes a moment ago, but for the briefest moment she would have sworn she saw some kind of...fondness for her. She wondered if she might have more to do with all this than she’d initially guessed. Perhaps she could get some answers from Marco—answers that might help Max.
She stood slowly from the cold floor, and felt her knee throb where she’d scraped it on the rocks earlier.
He watched her rise, and moved toward her. “What are you doing?”
“I just want to stretch my legs. Is that okay?”
“Yes. Probably a good idea, because I want to watch for them outside.”
“You won’t be able to stand up to all of them, you know.” Liz smoothed her hands across the front of her rumpled skirt. “They’re too powerful.”
He looked at her and laughed softly. “I think it’s really quite the opposite, my dear.”
She stepped closer to him, and suddenly felt incredibly small next to his towering frame. “What does that mean?”
“I mean...” he chewed on his lip thoughtfully for a moment. “I am much more powerful than all of you—even together.”
“Why? If you’re a hybrid, then how are you more powerful?”
“Because my human side died a long time ago.” He cast his eyes down for a moment, and seemed to struggle with something. Then he looked back up at her, his expression completely unreadable. “And that’s what makes all of you weak.”
“Well, then I must be the weakest of all,” she said tucking a stray hair behind her ear. “And I still don’t believe what you told me earlier.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Why not, Liz?”
“Because, for one thing...when I asked Future Max about our children, he said something about our being ‘different’. Okay, he wouldn’t have said that unless I were human.”
Marco shook his head slowly. “Liz... You are just more human than the others. That’s all, but you are one of them.”
“Others. So when you say others...” She cast her eyes around the room, as if searching for the words. “You mean, Max, Michael, Isabel, and Tess, right?”
“Yes. There were five of you.”
“Ah!” She raised a finger. “But see, Future Max also told me that the four of them made a complete unit.”
“You weren’t part of the unit. You were his...” Suddenly Marco’s voice trailed off, and he began shaking his head as he stared at her. “My God. You really don’t know any of this, do you?”
Liz drew up her tiny frame, making herself as tall as she possibly could. She met Marco’s cold eyes with determination. “Tell me what you were going to say,” she said.
“Okay,” He drew his face within mere inches of her own. “You were his bride,” he whispered softly.
“I know that we were married,” she stated impatiently. “Future Max told me that.”
“No, Liz, I mean you were his bride. It’s why you were sent with him.”
And with that simple statement, Liz Parker felt her entire universe shift on its axis, and she collapsed to her knees.

PART TEN

Liz drew up her tiny frame, making herself as tall as she possibly could. She met Marco’s cold eyes with determination. “Tell me what you were going to say,” she said.

“Okay,” He drew his face within mere inches of her own. “You were his bride,” he whispered softly.

“I know that we were married,” she stated impatiently. “Future Max told me that.”

“No, Liz, I mean you were his bride. It’s why you were sent with him.”

And with that simple statement, Liz Parker felt her entire universe shift on its axis, and she collapsed to her knees.



Marco watched Liz slide to the floor, and shook his head in disbelief. How was it possible that she didn’t know any of this? He thought they’d learned these things long before she and Max were married.

Slowly she raised her eyes to meet his, and when he saw the wild look in them, he felt something shift within his chest... something come alive. Her eyes had always been like two dark pools that he could just lose himself in... find himself in.
She continued to stare up at him silently.

What did she want from him?

“Tell me the rest,” she breathed finally.

The urge to guide her, to make her understand her purpose, was compelling—he’d spent too many years fulfilling his duty as their protector not to feel it. Obviously, they didn’t know their true destiny—and he was painfully aware of just how vulnerable it left them all.

What did they know?

Did they know about Nicholas? Lonnie?


He shook his head, clearing his thoughts. He simply could not do this—he had a mission to complete.

He cleared his throat, furrowing his brow. “The rest?” he asked.

“How can I be the bride? Tess was his wife before.”

“No, Liz.” He shook his head slowly, “Trust me, it was you.”

Trust you?” Liz asked incredulously, raking her fingers through her hair.

He hadn’t even noticed his choice of words...how could he expect her to trust him about anything? Trust had departed between the three of them so long ago. Well, not the three of them—between the two of them and himself.

“What purpose would it serve me to lie about such things?”

He extended his hand to her, intending to help her to her feet, but she ignored it. He wasn’t sure how to read the look on her face. She dropped her head, bowed it almost, and remained on her knees. He tried to see her expression, but her long dark hair formed a curtain, hiding it from him.

“Liz?”

She kept her head lowered. “Please, Marco...just don’t hurt him,” she whispered.

Again, he felt the spark of something come alive within him, but he willed it to die.

“I work for Khivar, Liz, and I must fulfill my mission.”

She shook her head slowly, eyes lowered to the ground.

“I’m begging you. Please don’t hurt Max.”

Begging you.

And then it hit him, nearly driving him to his own knees.

The woman he had called Queen was kneeling before him--bowing before him--begging for her husband’s life. One with such a noble and beautiful spirit was reduced to bowing before a traitor. He closed his eyes against the sight of it.

God, how had it all come to this?


He was kneeling before Max, the terrible gash in his forehead throbbing incessantly.

“I’m begging you not to do this, Max. Please.”

And Max was staring down at him, despising him. The man he’d called brother. King.

“Get up, Marco. I want you to leave.” Max’s breathing was labored and heavy. “Now.”

“I was wrong. God, I know how wrong I was.”

“Wrong?” Max had roared in disbelief. “You tried to kiss my wife...and when she resisted, you struggled with her.”

“It wasn’t like that...”

“Look at your face.”

“It was...a misunderstanding.”

“She said that you’ve been in love with her for more than a year. Did I misunderstand that”

Marco had remained silent for a long moment, wondering how he could possibly explain what he knew would sound crazy. That in being so near to both of them constantly, so close to them, somehow he’d begun to feel their connection. He’d never meant for it to happen, hadn’t wanted it—had tried to will it away. But there was no point in explaining, because Max would never believe him.

“No,” he’d finally replied in a defeated voice.

Max had just stared at him in shocked disbelief. “ I trusted you with her...with her very life...my own life-- and you betrayed me.”

“Won’t you at least hear what I have to say?”

“No. I want you to leave tonight.”

The words had torn into his very spirit--he had no other purpose than to serve the two of them.

“I don’t want to leave either of you,” he’d said quietly, closing his eyes.

Max had stared down at him, shaking his head bitterly. “You already have.” Then he had turned on his heel, and simply left Marco there, kneeling before no one.

But when Max had turned his back on him that night, he had left a great void, because Marco had only one destiny-- to serve a king.




“Liz, please get up.” Marco said, extending his hand again.

“Not until you tell me you won’t hurt him,” she pleaded with him. “You don’t have to do this.... We’ve changed the future.”

“Shall I remind you again that I no longer serve Max?”

Liz gazed up at him, suddenly seeming so very small. “The version of Khivar who told you to go after him no longer exists.”

Marco was silent for a long moment. “That’s not really true, Liz.”

Her eyes flew to his own, fear growing on her delicate features. “What do you mean?”

“I made contact with...our people before I found you.”

Our people? You’re one of us--you said so yourself.”

“The people I serve,” he corrected.

“So Khivar knows.”

“Not exactly...the people who answer to him know. And they’re outside right now.”

“Then this is all a setup.” Liz clutched her hands to her chest. “Why would you do this to him? At least tell me that much.”

Marco thought about his answer for a long moment. There were so many things he could say in response to that question.

“Because long ago he gave me no other choice,” he stated flatly, walking away from where she knelt on the granilith floor.



Max pressed the gas pedal a little harder, but the Jeep was already at its maximum speed. It was so old and battered, it wouldn’t push more than a good 75 miles an hour. Isabel sat beside him, her arms folded tightly around her, trying to warm herself against the cool desert air. Michael, Maria and Tess rode in the back. They had stopped at the Valenti’s on the way out of town, because they would need Tess in particular if they hoped to make their plan work.

The Jeep’s headlights furrowed two bright rows in the dark ahead of them. Max wished again that all of this weren’t unfolding at night, which put them at a big disadvantage. And whoever this Marco person was, he’d made a strategic move in going to the pod chamber. It put him at a geographic advantage, since he could watch their approach for nearly a mile as they made their way up to the top.

In fact, one of the very reasons their protector had no doubt chosen the pod chamber’s location—for its strategic value—was now putting them all at great risk. He glanced in the rearview mirror and caught Michael watching him.

Michael leaned forward, placing his hands on the back of the seats in front of him. ““You and Maria should stay at the bottom. Tess, Isabel, and I can go up.”

Max shook his head firmly. “We’ve been over this. We have to stick together, Michael. We’re stronger if we do.”

“You know what Liz told you...she said I should go.”

“ And if you leave us, then who’s to say someone won’t be waiting for us below?” Max glanced quickly over his shoulder at Michael. “That’s why we stick together.”

“Maxwell, she said he was the only one.”

“That we know of,” Max corrected.

Isabel stared out the window. “Max, I don’t have a good feeling about this. I think Michael might be right.”

Max was silent for a long moment, staring at the road ahead. They were only a few miles away now.

Why was everything always such an uphill battle with all of them?

He noticed Tess staring at him from the back seat, and their eyes locked for a moment. “Listen, if Max thinks we should stick together, then that’s what we should do,” she said.

Thank you, Tess.

Michael turned back to her. “Thanks a bunch, Tess. It’s his ass they’re after, remember?”

Maria threw her head back in exasperation, rolling her eyes dramatically. “Hello? Could everybody please just like shut up for a moment?” She looked around the Jeep with a dramatic sweep of her eyes.

Everyone remained silent, waiting for Maria’s next statement. Max studied her curiously in the rearview mirror.

“Isn’t Max supposed to be the leader here?” She continued, flipping her hair over her shoulder.

Thank you, Maria.

“We’re stronger together.” She added, placing her hand on Michael’s arm.

Max caught sight of Sheriff Valenti’s headlights in the rearview mirror. “And don’t forget, Valenti’s right behind us. He’ll be backing us up, too,” he offered.

But despite his confident assertions, Max couldn’t shake a small growing feeling that something was going to go terribly wrong. He just hoped that it had nothing to do with Liz—and that they would get to her before this Marco could hurt her. Max would die before letting anything happen to her--he’d had a taste of life without her in the past week, and he never wanted to experience that again.

PART ELEVEN


Liz sat shivering on the smooth rocks outside the pod chamber. Marco squatted beside her, watching the winding path below through some kind of night vision binoculars. She’d never seen anything remotely like them—tiny and compact, they apparently enabled him to see for miles.

They enabled him to track the assent of Max and her friends, and she wanted to snatch them away from him. But the inexplicable thing was that as much as Marco frightened her, as much as she worried about what was going to happen, there was a tiny part of her that believed she might be able to trust him. She felt the slightest bit of kinship, sitting next to him in the dark, even though she knew it was probably the whole hostage thing playing tricks on her. She’d heard about this--what did they call it? Stockholm Syndrome?

“So, where are the others you said were outside?”

“Around,” he said coolly, dropping the binoculars slightly.

“So, Max is going to get here and then you’re just going to... what?”

He remained silent, his eyes hidden behind the glasses. She rubbed her arms, trying to warm herself. All she’d been wearing that afternoon was a short-sleeved shirt, since this was the time of year when it still got hot during the day. But it definitely cooled down quickly at night, particularly in the desert.

She decided to try a new tactic. “What’s going to happen to me?”

He looked over at her, his eyes hooded and dark. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, looking away.

“So... you’re just going to ignore my questions, huh?”

“Liz... ” he sighed heavily, his eyes trained on the path below. “I can’t answer these things.”

Maybe if she could distract him, that would buy some time. “How about other questions?”

“Like what?”

“Like, how is it possible that I was Max’s bride? It was always supposed to be Tess.”

He glanced back at her again, drawing his dark brows together. He seemed to struggle with something for a moment, then turned back away from her.

Liz felt tears sting at her eyes. “So you won’t answer that either.”

He remained quiet for a long moment. “She was a decoy,” he answered flatly. “Meant to protect your identity.”

How ironic to think she was learning these things now, at a time when her only thought was for Max’s very life.

Max’s life.

Her heart thundered within her chest, and it was hard to suppress her rising sense of panic. Her palms were sweating, and she could hear the sound of blood rushing in her ears. What was she supposed to do? They all needed her to do something--and now. She took deep breaths trying to get her equilibrium back in check, and felt an excruciating pain hammering in her head—something that had been vaguely there ever since Marco had invaded her mind that afternoon.

What a weird sensation that had been—painful, yes, but more like something being sucked right out of her. In its wake a dull throbbing had intensified to what was now a blinding headache. She rubbed her eyes, trying to still the pain.

And then she had the oddest memory—and she knew it was a memory, something that had actually happened.

“What if he doesn’t come back, Marco? What if this is it?”

His voice, strong and reassuring. “He’ll be here, Liz.”

They were sitting on a rocky outcropping... not here, somewhere else. Nighttime... and he was surveying the landscape with the same binoculars.

“I can’t feel him. Not at all,” she’d cried quietly.

He’d looked at her, and pressed his hand over hers.

“He’ll be here. He will always come back for you, Liz.”


“I can trust you,” she said quietly.

Marco dropped the glasses quickly, staring at her for a full five seconds.

“Please tell me I’m not wrong,” she implored.

“I am your enemy, my dear, don’t forget that,” Marco said, straightening himself where he sat.

“No.” She shook her head with conviction. “I don’t believe that.”

“You need to believe it, Liz.”

“You may, but I don’t. It goes against everything that you are.”

“You have no idea what kind of man I am.” He laughed wryly. “What I’m capable of.”

“I know that you would have done anything for us,” she said softly.

“Once.” His voice was bitter and cold.

“Whatever Max did... to make you turn from him... .” She reached for the right words, but trailed off when she saw his expression. He glared at her, eyes flashing with angry fire, and then stood suddenly. He grabbed her arm, jerking her roughly to her feet. At that exact moment, Liz heard a rustling behind them. Marco glanced quickly in that direction, shoving her ahead of him.

“I want you back inside. Now.” He dragged her toward the cave entrance.


Max climbed along the path, Michael pushing forward just ahead of him. Michael had insisted on going first— big surprise. But in this case, not a bad idea. Tess walked beside him, with Isabel and Maria just behind, and Valenti bringing up the rear. None of them spoke, and they all pressed ahead with their senses totally alert.

It was a hard climb, groping along in the dark as they were, especially since they couldn’t use flashlights. They’d parked further away than they usually would, so that their headlights wouldn’t be seen, and were taking a long, circuitous route. Max found his mind drifting to Liz again. He thought of how he represented nothing but danger for her, of her words that night a week ago—she’d said his life was always going to be dangerous. That she didn’t want to die for him.

Maybe she’d been right, even if she had only said those things to try to push him away. Maybe if they got out of this, the best thing would be to just let her go.

But even as he thought it, he knew he would never be able to let Liz go—she was part of him, inextricably woven into his very being. In fact, he could almost feel her above him now... and in response, a quiet hum of energy started to grow within him. He drew a deep breath and drank in the sensation of it.

But he didn’t expect the result, which was an immediate scorching fire, shooting through every part of his body... straight to his fingers, his toes. He felt Liz more clearly than if she were standing in front of him, than if he were kissing her. She was all over him, all in him. He had to stop climbing a moment just to catch his breath. Tess stopped and placed her hand on his arm.

“Max, are you okay?” she asked quietly. He heard the others stop behind him.

Tess was the last person he wanted to know about the depth of this new connection with Liz.

He swallowed, nodding quickly. “Yeah.” He began walking again. “Yeah, just... lost my footing for a moment,” he whispered.

Only the sound of the ground crunching below their feet echoed around them. In the distance he heard the eerie howl of a coyote, but otherwise the night was electric and perfectly still around them. Yet his mind and body were anything but quiet—they were singing with impressions, words, emotions. All Liz. He tried to still himself enough to hear what she seemed to be telling him.


Liz stood just inside the cave where Marco had ordered her to stay. He’d shoved her inside roughly, leaving her without another word. She’d heard someone else outside, and she wondered again how many others were waiting for them all.

Perhaps she could connect with Max again and warn him that there were others besides Marco. She closed her eyes and reached out ahead of her, feeling for him. A warm buzz of energy touched her instantly—he was much closer now, and it was clear the connection was humming more clearly. She tried again, reaching out to take hold of it; then she felt a fire ignite, shooting through her whole body. Her legs grew weak beneath her for a moment, and she reached a steadying hand against the cave wall.

This was different than the vision connection they’d made before. Perhaps because they were closer, this was much more like their experience at the back of the Crashdown. She began to tremble, and felt Max touching her. Well, not exactly... it was as though she could sense him all over her, as if he were tracing his fingers up and down her skin. She was coming alive with him, and it was all happening so quickly. Seemingly, every time they tried this, it happened slightly differently, depending on the circumstance.

The sensation of Max touching her shifted, and she felt his thoughts begin to blend with her own. She knew he was walking somewhere on the path outside. He was incredibly frightened for her... and blaming himself that she was in this situation at all.

“No,” she whispered out loud.

“Liz?”

“Max, you’re almost here, aren’t you?

“Yes, about halfway up the path.”

“Listen, it’s not just Marco... I don’t know how many, but this is a trap. You’ve got to be careful, Max.”

“We’ve got Valenti with us. Tess is going to mindwarp just before the top. Where are you?”

“In the cave.”


She felt electricity shoot through her, and her breathing became labored. The connection was deepening too quickly, becoming too intimate. They didn’t even know anything about this yet—how to keep it more at the surface. She drew in a quick steadying breath.

Max must have been feeling the same thing. “We’d better break this now... .I’ll be there soon, sweetheart.”

“I love you, Max.” But she was a moment too late because the connection was already dying out. It left her feeling incredibly melancholy that he hadn’t heard the words from her.


Marco had been watching the group’s long approach. They’d come the back way, hoping to go unnoticed, but he’d been observing them from the beginning.

“They’re almost here,” Marco stated calmly, studying Nicholas’s features. Unbelievable--here it was fourteen years earlier, and he looked exactly the same. Nicholas stood with two other men, skins no doubt, who Marco had never seen before. All three observed the path below.

“Well, well... Max will be very surprised to see how the tables have turned,” Nicholas sneered, turning to Marco. “And Khivar will be very pleased... the granilith and the fallen king all in one day. Not bad work.”

Marco bowed his head slightly in acknowledgement. “I am only following his own orders.”

“And where is Max’s woman in jeopardy?”

“Inside the cave.”

“Bring her out.”

Marco hesitated. “She’s not to be harmed.” He met Nicholas’ gaze pointedly. “You do remember that?”

Marco shrugged indifferently. “Well, the directive has changed slightly. We’re to get rid of them all.”

Marco stared at Nicholas in disbelief. Their word meant nothing, and was ever-shifting to suit their current needs. God, didn’t he know that by now?

“Yes, we’ll just have a nice little group execution, and be on our way.”

They would not hurt Liz. He simply would not allow it.

“Liz was never to be harmed. That was the deal, Nicholas.”

“Well, Khivar is just a bit troubled by the idea of one dethroned queen hanging around. He wants this whole rebellion squelched once and for all.”

Marco thought a quick moment, as priorities shifted and realigned in a nearly forgotten way. “You should wait behind the rocks,” he said calmly. “We need the element of surprise.”

Nicholas nodded in agreement. “Of course. Best to maintain the illusion that it’s just you.” The three of them moved back in the direction where they’d been hidden before.

Marco knew exactly what he had to do, because despite everything that had happened between them all, he now realized he’d never fully turned away from his Queen.



Liz huddled just inside the cave door, her breath catching in her throat when the entrance slid open smoothly . Marco stepped in quickly, his expression urgent.

“Come with me, Liz. Now.”

“What’s happening?”

He pulled her close to him, and she could feel his hot breath on her face. “Go to Max,” he whispered. “Take the back path, head around the left side.”

She stared at him in silent shock, and he squeezed her arm tightly. “Now, Liz. Before I change my mind.”

She nodded quickly, moving to the entrance, but he pulled her back. “I can’t protect you, Liz. You do know that.” He drew in a breath. “But Max can—get him and get out of here.”






Edited by - RosDeidre on 09/30/2001 15:35:59

Edited by - RosDeidre on 10/02/2001 11:13:18

Edited by - RosDeidre on 10/04/2001 09:49:17

Edited by - RosDeidre on 10/05/2001 21:32:33

posted on 19-Oct-2001 9:09:09 PM
PART TWELVE
Max grabbed Michael’s arm, halting his trudging steps up the path. “Michael, it’s not just Marco,” he whispered. “There are more here.” He glanced around the dark terrain and wondered if they were being watched even now.

Michael blew out a heavy breath. “How do you know?”

“Liz just... connected with me.” The group formed a tight circle around the two of them, listening carefully. “She wanted to warn us,” he continued.

“I knew this was a bad idea, Maxwell. You shouldn’t be here. They want you, remember?” Michael looked up the rocky incline nervously. “You should let Isabel, Tess and me go up—the rest of you should stay here,” he said, his eyes sweeping the circle of friends.

Sheriff Valenti stepped closer. “Max, I have to agree with Michael on this.”

Max ran a shaky hand through his hair, and tried to sort through all his conflicting impulses. He trusted Valenti’s experience, and on top of that, a nagging feeling told him Michael was right. He was just so worried about Liz—she was incredibly strong, but he’d felt her fear when they’d connected moments before; and it was hard to stay away when he knew she was in such danger. But deep down he knew it was probably best if he remained behind--he could only pray they wouldn’t harm Liz just to get at him.

Max glanced up at the jagged rocks above, which marked the entrance to the pod chamber. He could barely discern the outcropping in the thick darkness—it was a totally moonless night—but still he saw the faint shadow of the rocks. And felt Liz just near them... was she still in the pod chamber? He couldn’t be sure. But he knew there wasn’t time to debate a course of action any longer.

“The Sheriff, Maria and I will wait here,” Max said firmly, noticing a big rock, surrounded by brush. “Behind this rock. If anything happens, you come back for us.” He eyed Michael pointedly.

Tess stepped close to Max in the darkness, and touched him lightly on the arm. “Max, I can do a mind warp, and we should be able to go right in for her.” She turned to Michael and Isabel. “But remember, I won’t be able to hold it long, so you guys have to be quick.”

It was strange to realize that Liz’s life—all their lives—depended on Tess at that moment. He hoped that their trust wasn’t misplaced.

Isabel gave him a quick hug. “Be careful down here, Max,” she whispered into his ear, then pulled away.

He could see the worry reflected in her dark eyes. He tried his best to give her a reassuring smile. “You’re the one who needs to be careful,” he said softly.




Liz scrambled down the dark hillside as quietly as she could, hoping she could intercept Max in time. It reminded her of another day when she’d run down this same hill, fleeing Max and a future she felt sure didn’t include her. How wrong she’d been—and now their destiny depended on her being able to find him in this pitch darkness. She became more and more frantic as she made her way, staring down into the desert night as she went. She wondered how she’d ever find any of her friends.

As she slid down the path, her foot caught on a hidden piece of brush, sending Liz sprawling forward roughly on her hands. A sharp pain immediately shot through her wrist, and the fall practically knocked the wind from her. Somewhere in Liz’s mind it registered that she’d just broken something, but she didn’t have time to worry about that. Get to Max, she trained her thoughts, forcing herself back to her feet. She glanced quickly over her shoulder to see if she was being followed.

Focus, Liz. Keep yourself together. As she gazed out across the miles of darkness, she suddenly felt incredibly small and insignificant, as if she were swimming in an ocean of darkness, groping for some unseen shore. If only she had a light of some kind, something to guide her.

Then she remembered one singular advantage they had over their unseen enemies.

And she focused everything within her toward Max.



Marco studied Liz’s descent through his binoculars and wished for about the tenth time that he’d simply gone with her. What purpose could he possibly have in even remaining? Well, he knew the answer to that question. He had to end what he’d started by leading Nicholas to the granilith in the first place.

He rocked back on his heels, and continued watching Liz’s climb down the path through the green haze of the glasses. The binoculars were infrared heat-sensitive, which meant he could detect outlines of figures, as well as their thermal energy. Through the lenses, the cars below gave off a dull glow where the engines were cooling. He could also distinguish between humans and aliens just based on their energy levels: humans registered with a mid-level energy reflection, whereas the hybrid thermal register was always much brighter. And of course then there was Max and Liz, another story altogether.

Liz’s register had always been completely unique, falling somewhere between the human and alien ones.... Her energy was so much stronger than a human’s, yet not as brilliant as that of the hybrids’. And Max’s was the strongest and brightest of them all—it had always bothered Nicholas, with all his power, that he had never registered so strongly.

But that wasn’t the most fascinating thing. What he was watching unfold now was an image he’d witnessed through these binoculars hundreds--perhaps thousands-- of times before, and it never failed to awe him. He was observing the way Max and Liz’s thermal energy changed when they came into contact. Whenever they were within a small distance of one another, their body chemistry and heat index literally changed in composition, assuming an entirely different level than each held on their own.

Over the years, he’d trained his eye to recognize their own peculiar heat impressions so that he could track them, but he’d also quickly learned to track their secondary register—the unique one they created together. Quite simply, when Max and Liz were together they blended, their energy becoming one. He wondered if Liz could feel how close she was getting to Max, because he could certainly see it in the way her thermal energy was beginning to escalate--and so was Max’s, where he was crouching just behind a rock. Marco couldn’t see him completely—could only catch a glimmer of his thermal register, which was changing by the moment as Liz approached him.

Marco’s reflections were cut short when he saw the familiar radiation of three hybrids moving up the hill. He’d been so busy tracking Liz that he’d nearly missed their approach from the side. It had to be Michael, Isabel, and Tess. What did they think they were doing? He looked around quickly, trying to decide a course of action.

But when he gazed back into the binoculars again, he saw something much more disturbing on the path below: three skins off to the side, observing Max... and Liz as she approached. His pulse raced, as old instincts came sharply into focus. They were in terrible danger— all of them—and he had to do something.



Valenti crouched closely beside Max, his eyes trained on the hillside. He had his gun drawn, held close against his chest. Maria huddled on the other side of Valenti, her back against the giant rock. Ahead of them, they heard a sudden noise, and Max sensed a ripple of silent tension spread through the three of them. Maria let out a muffled cry, and he glanced sideways at her. She was waving a tiny vial of cypress oil under her nose, taking deep breaths. They should never have brought her here, he thought, and Max lamented having endangered her like this.

Valenti raised his gun slightly, all senses on alert and ready to move. It was like something from an old Vietnam movie--military unit facing off with their enemies in the thick of night--only this was real, and no one had trained them for any of it.

Who were they facing? How many?

The sound was almost directly upon them now, such soft little steps. Max spread his palm on the cool rock where he crouched, steadying himself—and felt his chest begin to burn. It was only then that he focused on a sensation that had been subtly building for a few moments... he could feel an energy growing within him. He hadn’t really keyed in on it—he often felt like this when they were in danger. He knew it was part of his alien nature, this blaze that started to bank within him whenever they were threatened. That’s what he’d thought this was, but he’d been so caught up in the moment that he’d missed what it really was. Liz.

He felt a tiny golden thread weave between the two of them, joining them. The connection became a living stream of impressions and sensations, a gossamer thread leading her straight to him. She was almost on top of him, she was so near.

And then he saw her tiny form appear on a rock just above them, just as their connection opened wide—in fact, they must have spotted each other at the exact same moment. He rose slowly, moving from his position behind the rock, and stepped right toward her.

Liz hurled herself into Max’s arms with such force, that he nearly lost his balance, especially because he was so shaky from their building connection. He pulled her tightly against himself, burying his face in the top of her silky hair. Her familiar scent washed over him—fresh, like desert rain--and he drank it in. He cupped her face in his hand, turning it upward, and her dark eyes silently met his own. In them, he saw the reflection of every emotion coursing through his own body and mind. In those briefest of moments, they had joined, and he couldn’t even be sure where his own emotions ended, and hers began.

“Liz? How did you....”

“Marco let me go.”

“What? I mean, that’s incredible, but....Why?”

“I don’t know....”
She shook her head, and Max realized they weren’t even speaking out loud—just flowing between one another.

They were quickly interrupted by Valenti. “Max... Liz,” he whispered. “What’s going on?”

Slowly, Max released Liz, and knelt down beside Valenti. The connection cooled, but didn’t dissipate entirely... it lay smoldering between them, like an unanswered question left hanging in the air.

“Where are Michael, Isabel, and Tess?” Valenti asked. Liz crouched beside them, and Max noticed that she winced as she used her hand to steady herself. He frowned, realizing she was hurt.

“I didn’t see them,” she replied.

“Then how did you get away, Liz?” Valenti asked.

“Marco just seemed to change his mind.” She hesitated a moment, staring at the ground, and Max knew there was something more that she wasn’t telling Valenti. “I don’t know why, but he let me go.”

Maria shifted uncomfortably next to them all. “You didn’t see Michael?” she asked in a small voice. Of course Maria was just as worried about Michael as he had been about Liz. And Max was frightened for all of them, especially because the others would be searching frantically for Liz at the pod chamber.

“Sheriff, we’ve got to go up and get them,” he whispered intently.

Valenti shook his head. “No, Max, you should stay here with Liz and Maria. Someone needs to watch out for them.”

Max knew the Sheriff was right, and nodded his head silently. He was uncomfortable with all of them being spread apart like this, especially because even though they’d found Liz, he still couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that something was about to go terribly wrong.



Marco leapt from where he sat and began running down the hill, his boots sliding on the rock as he quickly covered the distance between himself and Liz. And Max. But he quickly pushed away all the confusion accompanying that thought. He kept the glasses trained in their direction, while trying to keep his footing on the rough ground. The three skins were stationary, simply observing Max, Liz and the human. Meanwhile, another human was moving up the hill.

Why hadn’t Max gotten her out of there? What was he waiting on?

But Marco had fought beside Max for too many years not to know the answer. Max never split up the team: he was waiting for Michael, Isabel and Tess to return—and now this other human.

Marco grabbed fistfuls of scrappy brush as he slid quickly down the rocky incline, hoping that he wouldn’t be too late to help them.



Max and Liz leaned against the cool rock surface behind them, with Maria sitting quietly beside Liz. None of them spoke, and the air was electric with anticipation. He’d never broken his connection with Liz, and it lay slumbering between them, ready to erupt into an inferno at the slightest provocation.

Valenti had only been gone for a few minutes, but it seemed like hours. In the distance a train thundered, its brakes whining eerily into the night. Maria sighed, laying her head against Liz’s shoulder, and seemed so incredibly vulnerable. He thought about giving them a moment together, and of breaking the quiet connection he and Liz had been maintaining, but he really didn’t want to.

Instead, he settled closer to Liz, taking her hand softly within his own. She winced, and he remembered thinking that she’d hurt herself somehow. Very gently, he closed her hand within both of his own, and felt how swollen her wrist was becoming. He began to rub his fingers lightly across it, releasing healing energy to her. Her eyes flew to his, and he felt a sharp, fleeting answer of pain.

Then there were images... Marco, dark and threatening.

The granilith chamber, Marco circling her.

A shadow of himself in the darkness, when she’d found him moments ago.


Liz drew her breath in suddenly, gasping for a moment. Maria lifted her head, looking at both of them.
“What?” she asked in concern.

Liz smiled up at him, her features radiant, tears pooling in her eyes, then turned to Maria.

“I hurt my wrist earlier,” she whispered. “He just healed it.”

“Oh,” Maria said softly, and reached a tentative finger to Liz’s swollen wrist. She looked at Liz, her eyebrows narrowing seriously. “You’re okay, right? I mean, this guy Marco didn’t hurt you or anything?”

Max could see Liz smile in the darkness as she placed a reassuring hand on Maria’s arm. “I’m fine, Maria. I just fell earlier when I was trying to find you guys.”

Maria nodded pensively, wrapping her arms tightly around herself. Liz nestled in a little more closely against Max’s side, and an expectant silence fell between the three of them again. Then Max felt Liz beckoning to him—inviting him to go deeper into their simmering connection. She glanced up at him, almost shyly, as if she were asking him to do something else entirely— something very physical. He could have sworn he saw her blush slightly in the darkness. He felt his own face grow hot, knowing just how deep they could go—even with Maria sitting obliviously beside them.

He pressed his lips against the top of her head, and traced his thumb lightly across her cheek. The bond between them grew richer. In the pitch darkness, there was suddenly the brightest sunlight rippling between them, and the gossamer thread came alive between them. He began kissing her, first on her forehead, then her warm mouth, and she released a quiet whimper. He didn’t care that Maria was right beside them, practically part of this. They might never have this moment again—today had shown him that all too vividly.

He couldn’t get enough of just touching her, feeling her, knowing that she was alive and really okay. He tangled his fingers through her hair, and crushed her close against him. He could feel her heart like a drum, pounding out a matching rhythm against his own. She gazed up at him, and they stared longingly into each other’s eyes. Such need for her began to grow within him, it was almost painful. His thumb trailed a path across her cheek, stopping briefly on her lips. Their breathing became fast and labored, and he closed his eyes. He had to get a grip on himself—this was insane. Maria was right beside them.

He pulled back a bit, slipping his arm around Liz so that she fit neatly against him. They both sighed, drinking in one another. He laced his fingers through Liz’s hair, letting his fingers linger at the base of her neck

Then he remembered something, and had an idea. He reached his hand inside the pocket of his leather jacket, retrieving the wedding ring. Without a word, he slipped it on Liz’s finger, closing her hand within his own. She looked up at him, wonder dancing across her features, and he saw tears begin to spill down her cheeks.

“We found it... earlier.”

“So you know? Everything?”

“I don’t understand it all yet, but... yes.”


Silence stretched between them, and Liz traced a finger over the ring. She glanced at Maria, who looked down at their locked hands.

“Pretty amazing, Liz,” she sighed, and looked pointedly away from both of them, giving them this moment.

“So we were married... in 2002?”

“In Las Vegas. At the Elvis Chapel.”

“Wow.”
Max laughed gently. “That’s pretty tacky, huh?”

Liz nudged him in the ribs with her elbow. "We had a great wedding... you told me so.

“Oh, Liz,”
he sighed. “I don’t doubt that.” They were quiet a moment, then he reached for her again. “That sonnet....”

Liz looked down at the ring, and smiled softly. “You don’t know what that did to me... that day in class. It was the hardest thing in the world, just ignoring you like that.”

Max glowed inside and out.

Liz turned to him suddenly. “Max....” She hesitated.

“What?”

“Marco told me a lot of things today... things about us. Now isn’t really the time, but... I can’t wait to tell you.”

What did she mean?

“Not now, Max. When we’re out of this, I’ll tell you... but it’s amazing. Really.”

“Okay.”


He ran his fingers softly through her hair, and pressed his lips against the top of her head. Everything about her felt so soft, so gentle. How could anyone have tried to harm her?

“Guys?” Maria looked at both of them sharply, drawing them from the moment. She turned and looked into the darkness beyond them. “Did you just hear that?”

“No.” Max shook his head. “What was it?”

Maria sat up very straight and looked over her shoulder. “I don’t know, Max, but it came from right over there.”

Max’s senses came fully alert, and he stared in the direction just past Maria--nothing but silent blackness all around them. He moved away from Liz, crouching as he studied the dark beyond them. He turned to Liz and Maria, and was about to tell them to stay where they were when he saw a quick, blinding flash of blue light.

There was an immediate answer of searing pain in his chest, knocking him backwards to the ground. The shock exploded through every cell in his body in one instant, leaving him gasping for air. Dimly he was aware of Liz, and that she was hurting... their connection--he needed to break it.

Then everything went totally black.


Michael and Isabel raced frantically through the cave. They’d already searched the granilith chamber and the area outside—and they knew they were out of time. They stopped, breathing heavily.

“What are we supposed to do? She’s not here,” Isabel whispered, feeling her hands begin to shake.

Nobody’s here, Isabel,” Michael said. “And that means we’ve got to get back down there now.”

They ran toward the cave doorway. “What are you saying, Michael?” Isabel hissed.

“This whole thing has been a trap. We’ve gotta get out of here now.

They spotted Valenti and Tess just outside the pod chamber at the precise moment everyone heard the scream. Piercing and shrill, it echoed across the dessert like a gunshot. Isabel wanted to be sick the moment she heard it.

Time suspended as they all stared at one another in horror.

Then they heard a second scream, even more shrill, and the four of them took off running downhill in one singular motion.





PART THIRTEEN

Marco saw the brilliant flash of light, just as it hit Max squarely in the chest, sending him sprawling roughly to the ground. Marco instantly recognized it as coming from a Disruptor--the weapon used by the skins to incapacitate hybrid powers. And unfortunately he knew firsthand that it hurt like hell in the process. It also meant that Max would be completely powerless against the skins if he couldn’t cover him very quickly.

Marco rushed forward, around the rocks, and in one fluid motion stepped between Liz and the attacker. He had to cover her before the skins fired the weapon on her, too. he extended his hand, throwing up his shield to protect her—but couldn’t position himself quickly enough to cover Max, who had been standing a small distance away before he fell.

The shimmering purple barrier of Marco’s energy formed a wall between Liz and the advancing skins. He glanced down at her quickly, and saw that Maria DeLuca was huddled beside her, mouth open in shocked disbelief.

“What’s going on?” Maria cried. “Who are you?”

Liz was doubled over on the ground, her face buried in the sandy earth. Her hands clutched her chest, and she moaned softly in pain. Had the skins already used their weapon on her? He’d only seen them fire once, and it had hit Max—but Liz seemed to be in excruciating pain.

“I’m here to help you,” Marco said, trying to sound calm. “We’re all under attack.”

He turned forward again, gathering his energy, concentrating to make the strongest perimeter of protection that he could. He saw Max lying motionless on the ground just beyond them. If he moved quickly, he could risk letting the barrier down long enough to step in front of Max, as well. But before he could make a move, Nicholas and the two skins materialized out of the darkness.

Nicholas’s eyes met his own, and he raised an eyebrow in sardonic surprise.

“Marco, this is a surprise,” he said.

Marco nodded slightly. “I’m happy to disappoint you.”

Nicholas planted a foot roughly in Max’s side. “Though I am confused about the sudden shift in loyalties.”

Marco looked down at where Liz lay on the ground, and saw Maria staring up at him, fear and confusion in her eyes.

“What’s going on?” She demanded. “What’s wrong with Liz?”

Slowly Marco knelt down beside them both, never breaking his concentration on what lay ahead, keeping the protective shield in place. He examined Liz quickly, running his hand over her back where she lay doubled over on the ground.

And in one sickening moment he knew what was wrong with her... their connection. Liz and Max had been connected—were still bound together even now-- which meant that she had felt the blast just as if she’d taken the hit directly herself. And she was continuing to feel everything happening in Max’s body right now—the pain, the immobilization. All of it.

“Liz,” he whispered hoarsely. He glanced up, seeing that Nicholas was shaking Max, trying to rouse him. Max was slowly coming back to consciousness. Liz had to break that connection now, or it could mean both their lives.

“Maria, you’ve got to help me,” he whispered urgently. Her eyes flew to his in surprise, but there was no time to explain how he knew her name. “I can’t drop my hands or we’ll lose this barrier.”

“What do I do?” She asked, suddenly seeming very determined and brave. He’d always admired that in Maria—her ability to rise to a situation and be strong.

“Max and Liz are connected right now,” he said. “Do you understand what I mean?”

“Yes, I think so....”

Marco saw Nicholas pull Max roughly to his feet, but he was still so weak that he stumbled and fell to his knees. Marco turned back to Maria, staring at her intently.

“You’ve got to get through to her... help her break the link.”

“Okay.” Maria nodded. “How do I do that?”

Marco hesitated a moment, as Max looked up at him weakly, and their eyes met, allowing Marco his first good look at this man he’d called enemy for many years now. What he saw was so unexpected, it caused him to shudder. This was no battled-hardened soldier, not the Max he’d come to serve in 2006, when their world had already been torn apart by constant warfare. At that time, Max had seemed so much older than a mere twenty-three years old-- somehow he’d expected this Max to look the same way. Instead, a much younger and more innocent man—a boy, really-- knelt just beyond his shield. He’d been totally unprepared for this--and now Marco felt something lurch within his heart.

God, what had he done to all of them? They were just kids.

“How do I do that?” Maria repeated impatiently, pulling him back to the moment.

She rested her hand gently on Liz’s back, repeating her name.

“Liz?” she said softly. “Liz, babe....”

Liz let out a soft cry of pain, but otherwise remained completely catatonic, her face buried into the dark earth.

“You’ve got to try to get through to her.” Marco stared down at her a moment, but had no idea how they should proceed. “I don’t know how.... Any way you can, Maria.”


All she could feel was the pain. Max’s... her own... it was all joining in some horrible dance between them. But far worse than the physical sensation was the awareness of how much Max was suffering—the thing they’d shot him with wasn’t any ordinary weapon. It had been unbelievable what she’d felt in her own body—like a massive electric shock-- and she knew she’d only absorbed a fraction of what he’d experienced. She’d felt something close to an explosion within her chest, and watched as Max fell silently to the ground. And every sensation he was feeling ricocheted through their bond. She’d heard him cry out her name... heard it in her heart, her mind.

And then he’d just blacked out.

But the pain hadn’t stopped—it had intensified. She knew she should make the break, but she couldn’t leave him, not like that. Not when he needed her so much. And now he was hazily becoming conscious again, as she felt the connection become more vibrant.... Now something was happening to him. But she couldn’t seem to look up, the pain was so immobilizing. Or maybe it wasn’t just the pain that had incapacitated her? Maybe it was something more. It almost felt like a numbness was spreading through her body, her extremities. Then she heard his voice, terribly faint and distant.

“Liz, you have to break this,” he said.

“Hmm....” Everything just felt hazy and unclear... and the pain was so intense.

Max’s voice, just beyond a circle of light. “Liz! Listen to me.”

She felt him... he was trying to shove her out. “No. I will not leave you, Max. I will not....”

“Liz... look up. Look at me!”

She tried, God she tried... what was wrong with her? Why couldn’t she get her body to respond?

“Break it now, Liz,” he commanded forcefully.

“Why?” she asked softly.

“Because I can’t. They’ve done something to me and I can’t, Liz, and... I don’t want you to suffer....”

Somehow she found the strength to lift her head from the ground, and saw Max on his knees. Nicholas was standing in front of him, saying something she couldn’t hear. He was placing his hands on the sides of Max’s head.

“Liz,” he pleaded. “If you love me... let go...”

And his voice just faded, replaced by another familiar one.

“...Liz, you’ve got to let go,” Maria’s voice rose to her from the fog. “Baby, you’ve got to. Max needs you to do it.”

How long had Maria been coaxing her like that? It seemed she’d been dully aware of her voice for a while. She felt Maria’s hand on her back, stroking, rubbing... and she felt Max slip out of her grasp. The connection went stone cold between them... like a dead phone line, just left dangling there.

She gasped in horror when she lost him, and slowly raised herself from where she lay in the dirt. Her eyes searched out Max’s where he knelt in front of her, just beyond the glowing purple shield. But his head was down. She looked up to see Marco, his hand outstretched, and knew he was protecting them with his shield just like she’d seen Max do in Copper Summit. Her eyes returned to Max, and she saw that Nicholas’s hands were on both sides of his head. He was doing something terrible to Max... that mind thing. But somehow she knew this was something worse.

She looked quickly at Maria, whose eyes were full of concern. “Liz, are you okay?”

Liz nodded, and rose shakily to stand next to Marco. She looked up at him and asked quietly. “What are they doing to him, Marco?”

Marco hesitated a long moment, as if he was struggling for the right words. He seemed unable—or unwilling--to look at her.

His response told her exactly what they were doing to him. Slowly, torturously... they were killing him.


PART FOURTEEN

“Marco, you’ve got to let the shield down so we can get to him!” Liz screamed, pulling roughly on his arm. Just beyond the protective perimeter, Nicholas stood in front of Max, hands planted tightly on both sides of his head. Max’s eyes were squeezed shut, and he was obviously in agonizing pain.

Nicholas was quietly taunting him. “So, the king bows down before me now,” he laughed dully. “Oh, Khivar will love that detail, Max.”

Max’s chest rose and fell quickly as he gasped for breath.

“We’ve been in this situation before,” Nicholas smirked, shaking his head. “You’re not very good at these endings, Max.”

Max slumped forward under the force of Nicholas’s onslaught, catching himself when his hands hit the dusty earth.

“No matter what we do, you just keep repeating yourself,” Nicholas laughed. Max raised his head weakly and met Nicholas’s eyes.

“You’re going to lose,” he rasped.

Liz closed her eyes when she heard how weak his voice sounded.

“Oh, I can see that, Max... or should I just call you Zan?” Nicholas asked sarcastically. “That seems more appropriate, in view of how this little drama will end.” Nicholas looked up at Liz pointedly, across the barrier. “And of what will happen to your queen yet again.”

Max was hyperventilating now under the force of Nicholas’s attack. “What?” he managed to gasp.

Why hadn’t she told Max the truth about who she was? Liz thought. About what Marco had told her....

Nicholas let his hands drop for a moment as he stared at Max in genuine surprise.

“Well, you don’t think it will turn out differently for her this time, do you?” he asked. “Just because that crazy hybrid is protecting her? I’m stronger than all of you.”

Liz could feel Marco seething next to her, his energy building. He glared at Nicholas, black eyes narrowing.

“That’s not true, Nicholas,” Marco shouted. “You know it’s a damn lie... you’ve always known Max holds all the real power.”

“But he’s barely learned to use it yet,” Nicholas corrected, raising a finger. “And that’s where I can thank you for bringing them to me at just this point in time.”

With that, Nicholas began the mind rape again, and Max cried out for the first time, as he doubled over on the ground.

Liz paced frantically beside Marco. This had to end--if they didn’t do something soon, Max was going to die.



Valenti approached the mass of rocks where they’d left Liz, Maria, and Max. His heart was pounding crazily, and he wished it would calm down. Not that he hadn’t been in situations like this before—life and death scenarios—but something about this night just felt all wrong. He nearly laughed out loud. All wrong—that was one way to put it. Chasing across a dark desert hillside after a bunch of aliens. What would his father say to that?

No, even after everything he’d been through with these kids, there was just something about tonight that gave him a bad feeling. It was the kind of sixth sense you developed after years in law enforcement... there was something... unholy about this night.

Michael followed closely beside him, Tess and Isabel behind. He put his arm out to stop Michael, so that they could listen to what was happening just beyond the rocks before advancing further. Everyone stood perfectly still, waiting.

There were muffled sounds... voices. Male voices and a faint female one. Maria? He wasn’t sure. He remembered the sound of the scream earlier—and somehow he’d been sure it was Liz.

He didn’t like the idea of leading a bunch of kids into a hostile situation, even if they were aliens with advanced powers. It just didn’t sit right with him.

“Michael, all of you stay here,” he whispered intently, looking around at the three of them. “Be ready to follow me in.”

Michael nodded, but he could see doubt in his expression.

Valenti crept along the edge of the rocks, raising his gun as he prepared to step around the outcropping. He peered around and it took only a moment to process the entire scene-- and one thing struck him right away.

Max Evans was lying on the ground... and someone was standing over him, doing something dreadful to him.

And he knew just how bad it was when he saw the expression on Liz Parker’s face.



Liz grabbed Marco’s arm, tugging on it desperately. “Let me go to him,” she begged. “Now, Marco.”

“So Nicholas can kill you, too? You know it’s what he wants.” He paused and looked at her, his dark eyes flashing with emotion. “You heard it.”

“He wants Max.”

“No, he wants the king and the queen,” Marco stated firmly.

Maria stared at Liz, confused. “The queen?” she asked. “What?”

Liz whirled to Maria in frustration. “Oh, God, Maria... not now,” she whispered, and turned to face Marco again with fresh determination. She decided to try a new tactic—anything to convince him to help Max.

“Marco, listen, I know you hate Max....” she began quietly, standing as tall as she could. “But I know at one time we could trust you... that I could trust you. I’m begging you.... He’s dying.”

Marco closed his eyes for a moment, and Liz couldn’t read his expression. Finally, he turned to her, his dark eyes full of... compassion? She couldn’t be sure.

“Liz, I’m doing what he wants me to do,” he said softly. “You love him. You know its true.”

A sob caught in her throat. She did know it was true. Max wanted her safe, not falling beside him. She felt hot tears begin to stream down her cheeks. “There’s got to be some way,” she whispered in a defeated voice, the sobs coming more quickly now. “Why can’t you do what I want you to do?” she cried.

Marco bowed his head solemnly, hesitating for a brief moment. Finally he spoke. “Because long ago I promised him that I would protect you at all costs,” he replied softly. “Above his own life, if need be. I forgot that promise for many years.” He glanced at Liz sadly. “But I intend to honor it this night.”

Liz turned from Marco slowly, and her gaze fell upon Max. He lay slumped forward on the ground now as Nicholas continued his assault. Slowly he raised his head, and for the briefest of moments their eyes met.

Across the barrier, through the night, something flickered between them... not their connection exactly. Some sort of understanding... a unity of minds.

And he seemed to say something to her...
only his lips didn’t move. Yet she still heard it somehow, distinctly... even without the connection.

The words echoed outside of the moment, through lifetimes.

So simple... they rang within her the moment he thought them:

I love you....




Valenti rushed forward just as Max collapsed, face forward, into the earth. He began firing his weapon in rapid succession, aiming first at Max’s assailant, then the two other men who stood beside him. The attacker—who appeared hardly more than a boy--staggered for a moment, then regained his composure. The other two men wavered, but only briefly.

It was like something out of a terrible B-grade movie—the evil bad guys who were impervious to bullets.

“Michael!” he shouted over his shoulder. He needed help--and quickly.


When Marco realized that Nicholas had been shot, he knew that this was their chance to reach Max. He turned quickly to Liz and Maria, looking them both in the eye. Liz was still crying, and Maria looked close to tears herself.

“Liz, Maria... on my mark, I’m dropping this shield,” he commanded. “We’ll go to Max, but we only have a moment.”

Liz gasped softly and nodded.

“Three, two, one,” Marco counted off, then dropped his hand, and the purple barrier disappeared. He felt the energy surge as it re-entered his body.

The three of them ran in one quick, fluid motion to Max’s side, and he threw his hand up again. When he did so, he felt a slight sense of panic. His energy was depleting, and he was getting too weak to keep this up much longer. Then what would he do—and how would he protect them?

Just beyond the purplish glow, Nicholas staggered from the gunshot, but quickly rose again. His eyes flashed angrily as he turned to the man who’d fired the gun on him—a man Marco didn’t recognize. That was when Marco saw Michael Guerin step from behind the rocks. Good, another hybrid... and Michael was a consummate warrior.

He turned back to locate Nicholas’s position, and saw that he was aiming the disruptor at Michael, preparing to fire. Marco flinched, knowing what was about to come... but then Nicholas was shot again, and staggered out of the way. Michael raised his hand and hit Nicholas with a huge golden blast of power. Good work, Michael, he thought.

That was the first moment he had a chance to glance down at Max—it had all unfolded so quickly. What he saw caused his breath to catch in his throat. Liz and Maria were kneeling beside Max, and Liz was sobbing... uncontrollably. Her whole body was shaking, and she’d buried her face in Max’s chest.

Max’s eyes were closed... was he breathing? He couldn’t tell, but a sick feeling was beginning to grow within him.

“Maria?” he asked warily, turning to survey the unfolding action beyond the perimeter. “What’s happening with Max?”

Maria rose slowly to stand beside him, staring at him in cold silence. The expression on her face told him everything he needed to know--her words only confirmed it.

“Well, you got what you wanted,” she replied dully. “He’s dead.” Her eyes filled with tears as she gazed at him in hatred. She opened her mouth to say something more, but instead turned away , and knelt again beside Liz and Max.

He could hear Maria’s unspoken words-- and it’s all your fault--because they were the same ones echoing in his own head.

If he could only figure out some way to fix this nightmare he’d created for all of them. And as he stared down at Liz’s tiny, delicate form where she knelt sobbing, a plan began to form in his mind—a way he might be able to save all their lives.


PART FIFTEEN

Liz wasn’t aware of anything around her. Time had stopped, and all she could feel was Max’s warm chest against her face as she pressed against his soft t-shirt. She could smell the familiar scent of his leather jacket, as she buried herself in Max…tried to hold onto him anyway she could.

God, his heart was completely still. Silent.

She’d always loved the feel of his heart beating against her whenever he held her…and how incredibly warm his body was, which made her feel so safe. But now he was growing cooler by the moment--just like the desert air after the sun disappears.

It occurred to her that she’d never feel that warmth and safety in his arms again. And that’s when her body began shaking, and the sobs became uncontrollable. She grabbed his soft leather jacket, his shirt, pressed them tightly against her face…God, if she could just get close enough to him, maybe it wouldn’t be true. She looked up at his beautiful face. The amber eyes were closed, and his long lashes swept downward. She leaned up and began kissing him, her hot tears streaming onto his skin.

And she kept repeating his name over and over. Maybe somehow he’d hear her…maybe somehow their connection could transcend even death.

She was aware of hands grabbing at her…trying to pull her away from Max. She jerked away.

They would not separate her from him…. Nothing would.



Marco grabbed Liz firmly by the shoulder, while with his other hand he continued to maintain the shield. He had to get her out of here, or she was going to die next. He knew exactly where to go if he hoped to save Max and the others, but he didn’t want to leave Liz behind in the process. Yet the harder he pulled on her, the more she clung to Max—and it tore him apart in the process.

Marco had seen her in so many tense situations-- even seen her face death before—and she’d always been so amazingly strong. Sometimes she’d been stronger than the rest of them. But never once, not in all the years he’d known her, had he seen her this distraught

But what had he thought Max’s death would do to her? The answer was simple--he hadn’t allowed himself to think about it, or even imagine it at all, because if he had they wouldn’t be here now.

That’s why he had to fix this—had to try--and he knew exactly what needed to happen. But could he get where he needed to go without being struck down himself? And could he get Liz there with him?

“Liz,” he whispered, and gently shook her shoulder again.

But she didn’t respond at all—she was completely lost in her grief. A little shudder passed through him when he realized how familiar this all felt… how much it reminded him of the way their connection would sometimes leave them completely unresponsive to their surroundings.

“Liz,” he called firmly. He looked up at Maria, who knelt beside Max’s other side. She met his eyes coldly, and he looked away quickly under the weight of her stare.

The shield flickered, and Marco felt a small surge of energy go out of him--he was growing too weak to keep the perimeter in place. He glanced beyond them and saw Nicholas was still lying on the ground from Michael’s power blast, but he couldn’t get a position on the other two skins. Why did it have to be such a damn dark night? He whipped out his binoculars and scanned the landscape in front of him. The other skins had run for cover behind a nearby rock, and crouched there now. They were regrouping, seeking to gain a strategic advantage in the darkness

Marco felt his energy waver again and made a risky decision. He allowed the barrier to drop, and turned more fully to Liz and Maria.

“Maria, I can help Max…all of you,” he whispered hoarsely. “But I don’t want to leave Liz here unprotected…they want her, too.”

“What do you mean?” she asked, glancing down protectively at her two friends. “What can you possibly do for Max?” Her voice caught in her throat as she spoke, and he saw tears pool in her large eyes.

“I can use the granolith, Maria,” he said, meeting her gaze intently. “It’s very involved, but there’s something I can do… I don’t want to leave Liz here, though.”

Maria stared at him a long moment, then placed her hands on Liz’s shoulders and shook them gently.

“Liz, let’s go…we’ve gotta get out of here, okay?” she whispered urgently.

But Liz was completely catatonic in her grief.

Then it hit him-- Liz wanted to die with Max…was willing it somehow.

And he didn’t have time to fight her will, or it would be the end of them all. He raised his binoculars and took another reading of the landscape. Nicholas had stood again and was battling Michael, who seemed to have taken a hit from the disruptor. There was the sound of more gunshots… total chaos was erupting. But so far no one seemed to realize he’d dropped the shield.

He could make his move now if he acted quickly—and if he left Liz behind. He glanced at her small form, where she lay sobbing against Max, and made his decision. He stood quietly…was about to make a run for the granolith when the strangest thing happened.

Nicholas and the other two skins began charging down the dark hillside, away from all of them. Marco furrowed his brow, and stared through the binoculars, uncertain as to what had sent them running. Then through the glasses he saw Tess Harding and Isabel Evans, and a faint smile formed on his lips. He knew that Nicholas and the skins believed they were chasing all of them down the hillside--thanks to a brilliant mindwarp.

Marco watched as Tess remained where she was—no doubt concentrating on maintaining her illusion—and Isabel quickly covered the ground between them. He felt a slight chill pass over him when he though of Tess’s eyes, and how they must look at this moment. Those icy blue depths were all too familiar, especially the way they could flash when she was using her controlling powers.

Tess had come to him that horrible night four years ago--just after Max had thrown him out. She had offered comfort, a place to stay. At the time Marco hadn’t known how she’d found him, and only later had she confessed that they’d had him under surveillance for months. Tess had seduced him that night—in every way—and he’d been more than willing because he’d never felt so desperately alone. Only later did he understand that Tess wasn’t just seducing him physically, but was leading him to the darkest side of his nature—and straight to the enemy’s camp. By the time she offered to take him to Khivar’s highest realms, he’d been more than willing to follow her lead.

And in the process he’d lost what was left of his soul.

Until tonight.

Quickly, he felt inside his jacket pocket, and knew he had just what was required. Thank God he’d taken an extra crystal in case he needed it for some reason.
Isabel was almost to them now, and he didn’t have time to offer her explanations. This was his divine moment, and he had to seize it. Without even glancing again at Maria…or Liz, Marco began sprinting up the hillside.



The crystal slid smoothly in place, even though Marco’s hands were trembling crazily. He had gone over every setting and adjustment three times to be certain—yet this still scared the hell out of him. There was the physical dimension for one thing—it hadn’t felt particularly great traveling through the granolith the first time. But he also knew just how much rested on his getting this right--and what he was attempting was far from an exact science.

The crystal locked in place and Marco stepped back…waited. And hoped with all his hybrid soul that this mission would succeed— that he would be catapulted back a mere five hours in time.



[ edited 1time(s), last at 19-Oct-2001 9:23:27 PM ]

posted on 22-Oct-2001 8:38:33 AM
Hey!
In answer to your question, there are 28 chapters to this fic, and I need to finish posting the rest. I hope to do that today.

Also, for those asking about GRAVITY, I have started posting it, but only have the first few parts up--it's 35 so far...

CRAZY TIMES TWO I'll do later this week!

posted on 2-Nov-2001 4:07:44 PM
PART SIXTEEN

FIVE HOURS EARLIER…

Liz crunched the ice in her empty diet coke glass with her straw, trying desperately to focus on her American history notes. She’d been looking at the same words for nearly an hour now, but hadn’t absorbed anything. It felt pretty much impossible, with the afternoon rush, and most especially with Max’s gaze bearing down on her from where he sat across the busy restaurant.

They’d been engaged in this little standoff ever since he’d walked in The Crashdown—he watching her intently, she averting her eyes whenever she caught him doing so. So why don’t you just go upstairs then? But Liz knew the answer to that…she ached simply to be near him—even on these terms.

She cast another tentative glance in his direction, only to meet a pair of golden brown eyes staring back at her, full of anger and hurt. Why did his eyes always have to betray so much of what he felt? Instantly, her face grew hot, and she turned back to her books, spread across the counter in front of her.

As she looked down, Liz touched the one thing that had comforted her since the night the other Max had vanished, disappeared completely right from her arms. She closed her eyes and touched the ring. Her wedding ring, given to her one night in Las Vegas…one night in the future, but never to be the past.

But that’s not quite true, she corrected herself. No, she remembered the warmth of his hands, his healing touch, as he’d stood just behind her, and slipped the chain around her neck. This belongs to you, he’d whispered. The ring had glinted in the balcony’s candlelight as she’d caught it between her fingers.

Liz had spun toward him, awareness dawning, and he’d answered by stroking her hair softly, his fingers lingering so tenderly against her neck. It’s your wedding ring. And you have mine. Just not here, not now. He’d stared at her with such intensity, it had shaken her to the very core. Until he broke the spell by placing a feather-light kiss on her forehead. But you will always have my heart.

She’d fingered the worn band with amazement, almost as if it held some kind of magic. Just as she did right now. It was a ring with one simple, beautiful inscription on the inside, written from the heart of two people so incredibly in love that they hadn’t cared about the consequences. Hadn’t worried about their parents, their friends, or even their future. Or their planet, or race, a voice taunted her.

Liz cringed at the thought, and slowly opened her eyes, only to find Maria standing right across the counter from her.

“Babe.” Maria bent down so that her face was level with Liz’s. “What’s up with that look?”

“Nothing, Maria.” Liz tucked a stray hair behind her ear. Anything to avoid Maria’s penetrating gaze.

“No…no. See, I know that look.”

“I’m just trying to study for my history final.”

“Interesting. Because that’s the same look I’ve seen on your face ever since you left for Copper Summit last week.”



Marco stood in the middle of Liz’s bedroom, his body still tingling all over. He stared down at his trembling hands and slowly moved his fingers, surprised to find that he seemed solid and alive. The experience of traveling through time had been horribly disconcerting. In fact, he felt worse for wear after this second trip through the granolith than he had the first time—maybe it was making two journeys so close together, or perhaps it was just traveling to such a close point in time.

He felt shaky and a little bit nauseous--like every cell in his body had been shuffled and randomly rearranged. And yet here he was. He took a tentative step, his feet still unsteady beneath him, and sat on the edge of Liz’s bed trying to regain his equilibrium.

Quickly Marco glanced at Liz’s bedside alarm clock. 3:38 pm…. That meant he had nearly thirty minutes left. He remembered looking at the clock upon first arriving here five hours ago, and had noticed that it said 4:06 pm. If everything went as planned, he would face the other version of himself—the past version—at precisely 4:06 pm. Of course, he couldn’t be positive he’d arrived on the right day. He looked around the room, noticed Liz’s open window, and a curtain floating lazily in the afternoon breeze. The dull fall sunlight filtered in from her balcony. It looked exactly as it had five hours before. In his heart, he really felt this was the right moment in time. He’d been so careful in his calculations…he had to proceed in the hope that he’d succeeded.

Thirty minutes…. Marco sighed heavily. There was so much to accomplish and such an incredibly short period of time to do it in. How could you possibly explain something so monumental as true destiny--to five people for that matter--so quickly? He stared down at Liz’s floor, and chewed on his lip. He wasn’t sure how to go about this, but he had to try—it was their only hope for getting things right this time around.

Getting things right this time around.

He thought of where he’d left them all just moments before. Max was dead…the others were about to be. All the terrible things that lay in this new future had to be averted. He had to explain it all in such a way that the future would be corrected properly. Max had been so determined when he’d come back from 2014 and told Liz to make him fall out of love with her. He laughed wryly. But, God, when had Max gotten so stupid? Didn’t he know that without Liz by his side, he was incomplete? That he needed her—their connection—in order to stay in balance…to be the king he was meant to be?

And Future Max did know their true destiny—why hadn’t he explained it all to Liz?

But something else bothered him, too. Why hadn’t he just told Liz about Tess’s calling…who she really was to all of them? Because therein lay the answer. Tess was critical to their survival, Max had been right about that, but not just because they formed a complete unit. She was much more than that, and he had to believe that if Tess just understood who she really was, she would rise to her destiny. She was called, just like Liz, to fulfill a very important role in Max’s life…in all their lives. He nodded to himself as his mind turned over these thoughts. Yes, Tess would rise to her calling, and serve her king—she need only know who she truly was.

Suddenly Marco grimaced remembering who she had become when Max had spurned her romantic affections… God, what Max’s rejection had done to both of them. But she’d walked away before learning the truth, and by the time she did know, she was already using her anointing in a twisted, evil way…. For Khivar. But he had to believe everything would be different if only they all knew the truth in time.

Marco stood cautiously, but found he was much steadier now. He hurried to Liz’s desk, pulled open a drawer and fumbled through her books and papers. There were pictures of Max, Maria, Alex…. One little strip of photos of Max and Liz caught his attention for a moment. Like earlier, he was struck by how young and innocent they both looked, smiling at each other, as only youthful lovers will. He felt something turn over in his chest at the thought of them together as mere children—for that’s what they really were-- but he pressed the emotion quickly away…he didn’t have time to think about such things.

Marco set the photos aside and scrambled through the drawer quickly, seeking a decent sheet of paper. Finally, he found an open notebook with a clean page, and grabbed a pen. He pulled the chair out, sat at Liz’s desk and began writing… My Dearest Max and Liz…



The familiar sounds of the restaurant hummed all around them—music, laughter, clanking dishes. How was it possible that she could feel so alone?

Liz opened her locker and pulled out the notebook she’d been looking for. Maria stood closely beside her, tracing her finger along the ragged edge of the metal door.

“Liz, all I’m saying is that everybody is worried about him. Michael and Isabel say they’ve never seen him like this.”

“Has he talked to any of them?” She couldn’t hide the concern she felt at what Maria was telling her. It was worse than she’d even imagined.

“I mean, that might help him,” Liz offered, closing the locker.

“Apparently, he’s shut down completely. And nobody knows why. Did you guys have a fight or something?”

“Not exactly.” Liz lowered her eyes and chewed on her lip.

“What does that mean? Can you be just a bit more specific with me, Liz?”

Liz was quiet for a long moment, and studied Maria. This was her best friend—someone who had known her since childhood. The urge to share the entire bizarre story was overwhelming.

She closed her eyes against it.

“Earth to Liz.” Maria shook Liz’s arm gently. “What’s going on?”

“It’s so….” Liz opened her eyes, and let out a heavy sigh. “…complicated.”

“Yeah,” Maria raised her eyebrows sarcastically. “I gathered that.”

Jimmy poked his head out of the kitchen. “Maria! Orders up! You coming, or what?”

“I’m there!” Maria rolled her eyes. “Well, at least I can tell Michael and Isabel one thing.” She turned to leave, then glanced back at Liz.

“What?” Liz asked.

“That apparently Max isn’t the only one who’s shutting us all out.” She shoved the restaurant door open, leaving Liz alone by her locker.



Marco had been writing furiously for a good ten minutes. He’d never tried to pen anything so quickly in all his life, and hoped they would be able to read his scrawling words. One side effect of being left-handed was that no one could ever read his writing. They had all told him so dozens of times. He glanced back over what he’d written, and hoped it was at least somewhat legible. His words would be shocking enough to all of them, and the last thing they needed was to wonder what they were even reading.

He jerked his head in the direction of the clock. 3:53 pm…thirteen minutes to go. So much left to explain. He’d give anything for just a few hours with Max and Liz…time to sit with them, answer their inevitable questions. But he hadn’t wanted to risk missing the other version of himself—he had to stop him… finish himself. And he had felt so insecure about arriving much earlier in case he somehow messed things up. No, his only choice had been to arrive as close in proximity to when he’d first appeared because if he weren’t here to stop himself from contacting Nicholas, and then taking Liz, it would all play out exactly as it had the first time. He glanced at the clock, and resumed scribbling furiously.



Max was literally the last person Liz expected to see walk through the door at that moment. Maria had left, then Max had simply appeared in her place. And something about it had completely unnerved her—she’d actually jumped physically at the site of him. Maybe because she was still sorting out all that Maria had just told her.

“Max!” She hated the way her voice sounded so strained. “You…startled me.”

“Sorry,” he looked confused by her response, and shrugged slightly. “Maria said you were back here. I need to talk.” Max pulled the crumpled e-mail from his pocket and handed it to Liz.

She smoothed out the wrinkled paper. “Oh…” She shifted her books awkwardly in her arms, avoiding his gaze.

“Liz, what were you trying to tell me last night? I don’t understand.”

Liz’s heart began to beat wildly and she felt her chest constrict. She hadn’t expected this yet…wasn’t ready for it at all. She had wanted the email to provoke a response, just not this quickly.

“Max….”

He took a purposeful step toward her. “Liz, you’ve been avoiding me…this whole thing…for a week.”
A rushing sound filled Liz’s head, and for a moment she thought she might faint as all the emotions pressed in on her at once. She looked up at Max, willing the swimming sensation to stop. She focused on the familiar brown eyes, ones that had been a harbor for her so many times…and was surprised by what she saw. He looked at her with deep intensity, every emotion shining through his eyes—just like earlier in the restaurant. He wasn’t shut down to her at all.

“Aren’t you even going to answer me, Liz?” He grabbed her arm with surprising strength—not roughness, but firmness of purpose. When he did, Liz instantly felt the connection spark between them--and with alarm she saw that Max had, too. Realization flashed in his eyes. Quickly, she pulled her arm out of his grasp.

“You’re scared…. you’re really scared of something, Liz.”

“No…” she shook her head vehemently. “No, I’m not.”
Scared that I’m losing you forever. Of even being this near to you right now.

“You are, Liz. I felt it.” Suddenly his voice shifted, becoming low and insistent. “Tell me what it is.”

“Nothing, Max…. I’m fine.” She dropped her eyes again, and hugged her books to her chest protectively.

“Then tell me what I just felt. God, Liz, just tell me anything about what’s going on with you,” he snapped.

Their eyes met and for a moment, Liz swore the connection would ignite between them again. It was that powerful. And if she ever allowed it to catch hold, he would know everything…about his future self, about how he’d changed her, about Kyle. And she wanted that more than her next breath.

So she walked away from him. She turned her back because it was too soon for the truth.

“I’ve got to go, Max.” She walked toward the stairs, assuming her most detached, rational voice. “I’ve got a history mid-term tomorrow, and…”

Then she heard it…his voice so quiet she nearly missed it. “This is killing me, Liz.”

She froze in her tracks, and slowly turned toward him. All the fire was gone from him now, replaced only by brokenness.

His voice was barely more than a whisper. “Just talk to me…please.”

And she was gone, utterly destroyed.

Moments hung suspended, both of them left without words.

At last she found her voice. “Where?” she rasped, knowing she’d go anywhere he wanted…right into his arms forever, if only he asked.



Marco slipped the letter into an envelope he’d found in Liz’s desk drawer, and sealed it firmly, pressing his thumb along the backside for good measure. He wrote their names on the front of the envelope and propped it against her computer screen. He knew she’d see it right away if he left it there.

4:02 pm. His heart began to hammer within his chest. He felt as much trepidation about facing this other version of himself as he would facing any enemy. But fortunately he knew how it should all play out, because of what he’d learned when he’d sifted through Liz’s mind…both times. He remembered mindraping her, and shuddered at the thought.

How could he have done such a thing to the only woman he’d ever really loved? But at least because of that he did know that when he encountered this other version of himself,then both of his selves should disappear. Two versions of himself couldn’t exist at the same place in time, so he shouldn’t actually have to battle… himself. But he was prepared to if necessary.

How was it possible that one’s heart could change so thoroughly in a mere five hours time? He’d begun this day filled with so much hatred…such roiling resentment toward Max. And was ending it…someplace else entirely. It was like all the intervening years had simply evaporated—seeing Max and Liz at seventeen had been the first wakeup call. Seeing the man he’d served as king dead at his own hand—because Marco knew he was culpable, surely as if he’d done the deed himself-- had been the final one. That was not the legacy he wanted to leave, no matter what Max had done to him four years ago. It was not the man Marco had been designed and trained to be, and that was the true lesson he’d learned this day.

Marco stared down at his hands again, and turned his right wrist over slowly, so that he stared at his quickly beating pulse. He raised his other hand and allowed a tiny beam of light to flow upon his open wrist…and did something he hadn’t done in years. He allowed himself to see what he’d believed would no longer be there…couldn’t be there with the way he’d betrayed them all these past years.

And yet it leapt to life, just as it had eight years ago when he’d first explained to Max who he was.

A holographic image—not so unlike Max’s own royal seal—appeared in the air just above his wrist. It was Marco’s own seal, marking him as a royal protector. He wasn’t the only one—there were a number of them—but he was still part of an elite group, branded for life as protector to the royal family.

In his own case, to the king and queen.

He stared at the swirling pattern where it hovered in the air just above his wrist…magenta, gold, purple.

Such beautiful colors. Royal colors. And he smiled softly to himself…. Serena would be so pleased to know that he hadn’t disappointed her in the end.

He allowed his other hand to drop and the seal disappeared.

4:05 pm.

He took a deep, steadying breath.

One minute left.


PART SEVENTEEN

Max thought a moment, his brow furrowing slightly as he considered the possibilities. Then the frown was replaced by a faint smile as he found his answer.

“Here,” he replied softly.

“No,” she shook her head firmly, taking a step back from him, her heart thundering within her chest. Not here. No, she couldn’t lose control here…not like this, not like she knew she would.

But he quickly closed the physical distance between them. “Yes, Liz…here,” he whispered, capturing her hand gently within his. “Right here...right now.” He traced his thumb lightly across the back of her hand. “I know you’re ready to tell me the truth.”

He covered her hand within both of his own, and she could feel an incredible heat envelop her, just as it always did whenever Max touched her. It began right between their hands and radiated outward like a giant rolling wave, gaining momentum throughout her entire body. Her face flushed and her eyes watered from the sweeping sensations that moved through her, and like the undertow below the ocean waves, their bond tugged her deeper into him. Oh, God, he was going to know everything now because she couldn’t resist this…what was coming. The pull was too powerful.

Max’s amber eyes met her own, widening with surprise…innocent wonder at what was beginning to unfold between them. She read the unspoken questions in his gaze, felt them as the bond unfurled. He had no idea what was happening…knew this wasn’t a flash, that this was uncharted territory.

Then the connection skittered and sparked, and like wildfire set to desert brush, the flame simply roared to life. She felt everything that was in Max’s heart at that moment, felt it ripple through her, touch her, as she spun deeper into him. Oh, and she felt him coming inside of her, too. He stepped even closer to her, and she heard a rushing noise all around them. She could no longer hear the thrumming sounds of the restaurant. There was only Max, and her senses were totally immersed in him. She reached a hand to his cheek, caressing it tenderly. He closed his eyes and she felt what her touch did to him. He was simply undone…by all of it.

“Liz?” His eyes fluttered open again, questioning.

“Hmm…” she sighed, feeling the soft stubble of his beard beneath her fingers. Every touch, every sensation was magnified.

“What is…this?” he murmured.



Marco stood at full attention in the center of Liz’s room. 4:05 pm. One minute left, he thought again.

A single minute that seemed to last an eternity. It had hung in the air for so long already, he thought he’d go mad with the waiting. All his senses were on edge, and he was ready to face whatever happened. Marco was certain of only one thing--he would not let his other self hurt Max or Liz in any way. He had come out on the other side of something today... a journey that had begun four years ago in fact. He smiled faintly to himself, knowing that he had won this siege, waged by some unseen force against his very soul. He had reclaimed himself in the course of the battle this day.

And now he was going to die.

That much Marco did know--but as strange as it might seem, he didn’t mind. He was proud to do so…. Proud to walk out his destiny, to be the only man he’d ever really been called to be.

He closed his eyes for the briefest moment. His last moment.

And thought of Liz. Her beautiful smile, her luxurious dark hair… and the way he’d felt whenever he was near her. The air around her had always been electrified for him… different than when she wasn’t with him. That feeling had intensified incredibly when he’d begun to feel her connection with Max, as he’d caught those brief glimpses of what the two of them shared. Their bond had simply begun to seep over to him somehow, and he’d had the tiniest glimmer of what it would have been like if Liz had loved him. And of what Max felt for her, how he worshipped her—now that was the hardest part of all.

In hindsight, Marco understood what had happened with their connection, how he had begun to pick it up, first in tiny shimmers, later in intense waves. Now he knew that because his chief gift was intuition, that it had combined tragically with his role as their protector. What had been meant as a good thing—that he should have been able to connect with them whenever they were in danger—had become something twisted and tormenting. He’d felt all their love, all their amazing passion for one another…and been left without a single recourse. Marco had been left standing outside, gazing in at something that he could never be part of, and could only yearn for in the deepest recesses of his heart and mind.

He opened his eyes again and his thoughts floated to Tess. That relationship had been a poor imitation of love, yet he’d felt something in her arms, those few times they’d been together. Perhaps if she hadn’t already lost herself so thoroughly…perhaps if things had been different. But things hadn’t been different…and she’d used him completely. It had never been love for her, even though somehow he’d felt a dim reflection of it in his own heart.

He shook the thought aside, clearing his mind.

4:06 pm. The time was at hand.

He felt a quake within him, and drew in a sharp breath. There was a shooting pain in his head, pounding now…demanding and incessant.

A vaporous form appeared just in front of where Marco stood--an apparition that quickly took shape as hazy edges became solid boundaries. And he found himself staring into the dark eyes of his other self.

God, those eyes. Was that what he’d really looked like just five hours ago? So lost, so cold…so very dead.

And his other self became more concrete, totally solid. The deathly eyes widened, the mouth opened…and then both of his selves collapsed simultaneously to the floor of Liz’s room.

The pain was unbelievable…his other self reached a hand out to him weakly, as Marco struggled for breath, gasping over and over in a desperate effort to fill his lungs. But he couldn’t seem to draw in any air at all.

“You…will not hurt them,” Marco choked out, staring into those other black eyes. “I will not allow it.”

His other self opened his mouth to speak…was about to say something, but before he could, he disappeared before Marco’s very eyes. He was completely gone, just as he had first appeared.

Marco crumpled to the floor, unable to breathe.

And yet he was still here.

His head hammered with excruciating pain. Why was he still here? Shouldn’t he have disappeared at the same moment?

His very last thought was a quiet, gentle answer.

Because you now had a greater will to live. A reason for being….

He did not.


Marco rested his cheek quietly against the floor, knowing he'd achieved his destiny. He had protected his king and queen... they were safe now.

And he was restored.

With that thought, and gasping desperately for air, Marco felt himself begin to fade away slowly...disappear completely.



Liz stepped nearer and slipped her arms around Max, pulling him close. She breathed in the scent of him, felt his heart beating wildly against her chest. Her own heart matched his beat for beat--both their pulses falling into a single rhythm as they became completely one.

Her mind spun with his endless questions, his confusion… his absolute release as they joined like this. He didn’t understand what was happening, didn’t care. Max pressed his lips against the top of Liz’s head, burying his face in her hair.

Another wave hit her, and she knew the unspeakable anguish he’d been carrying for the past week. Kyle in her bed…covers thrown over their bare bodies. Tinkling laughter. Shock. Betrayal. The sensation of her heart being torn from her chest…but it wasn’t her heart… it was his. Not just the past week…the past months. That day at the cave. Images of her running away, down the hill…him losing her forever. One question, echoing endlessly through his mind, over and over. Was it somehow his fault? Oh, God it felt like a knife in the very core of her being.

And just when the weight of his grief began to crush her, she touched the radiant spark of hope that had come alive within him during these past few moments. So warm, so golden…it was the promise of everything he held most dear. The faded embers of his love for her, his dreams-- fanned to life again, because he knew she hadn’t slept with Kyle. And his heart simply sang with it.

The brightest sunlight, rippling between them. Max’s breathing was erratic, his heart hammering against hers. He took her face in his hands, sending shivers across her flushed skin. She was absolutely on fire. He pressed his lips against hers, claiming her mouth with his own, and she could feel him shaking, slight tremors running through his whole body. It occurred to her that they were right in the back of the Crashdown—that her parents might walk in on them at any moment. Not that she cared.

That was her last coherent thought before she felt their souls touch.

She sensed him…a solid presence and it was the most beautiful thing she’d ever known. His lips stilled against hers and neither of them breathed for what felt like an eternity. Neither knew what to do, they were transfixed by the moment.

Slowly, Liz opened her eyes and saw that Max was watching her, sheer amazement dancing across his features. He pulled back and she realized for the first time that tears were streaming down her face. He reached a finger out and traced a damp path across her cheek.

“Oh, Liz,” he whispered. “You…are even more beautiful than I imagined.”

“Max, we’ve got to stop this…”

He leaned his forehead against hers. “Why?” he groaned.

“Because…” she took quick breaths, trying to steady her mind, her pulse. “Anyone could walk in…”

“That’s bad?” he asked helplessly, wiping her tears with his fingers.

“Yeah…” Liz laughed softly, trying desperately to steady her thoughts. “Upstairs…let’s go up…stairs.”

“Okay,” he murmured, pulling her against his chest tightly.

“Okay,” she nodded in agreement. “Then…we’ve got to break this, Max.”

He released her, but threaded his fingers through hers, not ready to let the moment go. She smiled up at him, slowly disentangling her fingers from his.

And everything became perfectly still and quiet between them, as the roar of their connection cooled. But it didn’t grieve her this time, not like with his future self. No, this time she felt a wonderful thrill humming all through her. Like Max had just done something really amazing to her…within her. In a way, he’d just made love to her, right there in the back of her parent’s restaurant, for all the world to see. She smiled giddily at the idea, and smoothed out her hair, trying to compose herself at least a bit.

“I can’t wait for you to explain what just happened.” He met her gaze again, suddenly almost shy with her. “Because I have the feeling you understand it a lot better than I do.”

“Upstairs.” Liz smiled up at him. “Some place more private.”



Max sat on the bottom step to Liz’s apartment, running his hand absently through his hair. Liz had asked him to give her five minutes alone, and he certainly hadn’t needed an explanation for that. Not after what had just happened between them. For that matter, he needed a few moments to sort through the huge avalanche of emotions that he’d just experienced.

One thing was absolutely certain. Liz had not slept with Kyle. But something else had definitely happened to her, something that had changed her profoundly. Irreversibly. And though he didn’t understand how, he felt certain that it was all somehow related to…himself. All through their connection, he’d felt it… there was someone else, but that person didn’t upset him, or frighten him.


Liz bounded up the stairs, her heart simply soaring within her. At that moment, she didn’t care that Max was going to know everything. There had to be some way they could work things out together without it being the end of the world.

She thought of Future Max and what he’d asked of her. He had been desperate, driven, and maybe the plan they’d concocted together hadn’t been the best. Well, that much is obvious, she corrected herself. And what would Future Max have thought about the secret she’d kept from him, especially now that she’d just revealed it to her Max downstairs.

She hadn’t been sure until today, had only had her suspicions, but now she knew beyond any doubt—the two of them hadn’t broken the connection in time that night. He had imparted their bond to her permanently then, and in all probability she had just passed it on to Max downstairs. The notion thrilled her to the core of her being.

She reached the landing, and fumbled for her apartment key, noticing the wedding band slip a bit on her finger. Future Liz had apparently been a tiny bit heavier, because the ring was always sliding around on her finger. Now there’s something to look forward to in my thirties, she thought with a wry laugh. She turned the key in the lock and thought that she couldn’t wait to show Max the ring…the inscription.

Liz stepped into the apartment humming happily, thinking about all the things she wanted to tell Max. She dropped her books on the sofa, contemplating all their many months apart, and how much had remained unspoken, how much there was to share now. She warmed at the very notion of it.

She stepped into her room and was struck by the oddest sensation—it felt like someone had just been there. She looked around quickly, her brow furrowing. She didn’t see anyone, but felt a chill pass over her skin. Only the curtain fluttered softly in the breeze of her window—otherwise the room was completely still. All the crazy events of the past week must be getting to her, because now she was letting her imagination run wild.

She shrugged lightly to herself, dismissing the notion and stepped quickly into the bathroom. One glance in the mirror and she was sorry she’d looked—she had dark circles under her eyes. She wanted to look beautiful, not haggard, but all the sleepless nights in the past week had taken their toll. Quickly, she reached for her compact and used a bit of powder to hide the dark lines underneath her eyes.

“You don’t need that,” Max said softly. Suddenly, he was standing in her bathroom doorway, just gazing at her. So much love radiated from his eyes.

“You don’t think so?” she asked tentatively, glancing away from him, suddenly feeling very shy. Slowly she closed the compact, and dropped it in her makeup bag without looking at him.

“You’re absolutely beautiful the way you are, Liz.” His voice was husky and deep, full of all the passion she’d just glimpsed in his eyes.

He took a cautious step toward her, and captured her hand within his own. She felt her cheeks begin to burn under his steady gaze, as their eyes slowly met. She drew in a quick breath when she saw the naked hunger in Max’s eyes.

Then suddenly she remembered standing right in this very spot, with his other self…of how he’d allowed her to glimpse their connection. Of how he’d transferred it to her permanently.

Maybe it was that memory, or maybe it was the simple fact of Max taking her hand within his own, but the connection skittered crazily for a moment between them. Wildfire shot across her arms and her skin as she stared into his amazing amber eyes. Like twin golden pools, she longed to swim in them, wanted to lose herself forever in them.

Then in one swift movement Max was kissing her. Not gentle this time…roughly, hungrily. His mouth pressed against her own, demanding all of her, and the world spun away beneath her. Liz had to steady herself by holding onto him. She reached her arms up around his neck, pulling him tightly against her, her fingers threading their way through his soft hair. He moaned ever so slightly, as they both pressed closer, wanting more.

And then the connection rolled over them like a giant, crashing tidal wave, and came completely alive. She felt him all over her, upon her… within her. Small electric shivers shot across her skin, her face…every place where he was touching her. Places where he wasn’t. Oh, this was quickly becoming much more than what they’d shared downstairs, and he’d all but made love to her with a mere kiss then.

What was this going to become?

She couldn’t stop it, didn’t want to. She wanted more of him inside of her… all of him, beyond this connection where their minds and souls were joining, entwining.

She wanted Max to make love to her. Right here, right now.

In fact, she wanted him to make love to her right in her bathroom. Now that wouldn’t do at all.

But before she could say a word, he pulled his mouth away from hers, and she saw his gentle smile.

“Not here, sweetheart.” He stroked his hand slowly across her hair, planting warm kisses across her face, then her ear… her neck. His wet mouth lingered against her throat for a long, amazing moment, and she heard him draw a ragged breath in.

I’m drinking you in, my love.

Oh, God. How could she stand up under this assault?

I’m making love to you in a different way…do you feel me?

Yes…oh, Max.

You never made love with Kyle.
She felt him smile against her cheek, as he planted the warmest kisses along her jawline.

No.

You are only mine.

Of course…
more kisses along her throat, as he lingered there. Glowing hickey, she thought quickly.

I liked the glowing hickeys, he laughed softly.

Hmm…was all she could think in response.

“Give me one,” he whispered against her mouth, as he began kissing her again, his soft lips crushing against her own.

I can’t.

I bet you can.
And with that she pulled her mouth away from his, and began nibbling his ear, trailing feverish kisses across his neck. Oh, God she was going to faint…. The connection was so rich now…like amazing desert sunlight reflecting off the sand, the rocks. Their breathing was ragged, unstoppable. This was unstoppable.

But then something happened. She’d felt him inside of her, but it deepened…she felt his soul actually intertwine with her own, join somehow.

Oh, God, Max…she cried out to him across the connection, gasping as her lips stilled against his cheek. His hands were finding their way underneath the back of her shirt now, but they stilled against her…so warm against her bare skin. The two of them pulled slightly apart, and simply stared into each others eyes.

What had just happened? Neither could breathe, say a word. They had joined somehow. And Liz was terrified beyond belief.

“Shh…” he whispered softly, stroking her hair away from her face. “Don’t be afraid of me. I would never hurt you.”

He rested his forehead gently against hers.

I know that, Max. You know I know that.

And he pulled her against his warm chest…oh so warm. And she felt more safe than she could ever recall feeling, with his heart beating strongly against her like that. Joined with him…one. She closed her eyes and felt his soft tee-shirt against her cheek. He planted tender kisses on the top of her head.

I’m making love to you right now, he whispered across their connection.

I know.

And their souls knit together more tightly, drew more sharply together. She wasn’t even sure how she knew it, but she could simply feel his soul and her own joining, threading together permanently.

Something else had just happened…something more than with his future self, more than downstairs.

She drew her breath in sharply, and buried her face in his shirt.

Tears began streaming uncontrollably down her face. She couldn’t have stopped them if she’d tried.

“I want to make love to you physically, Liz,” he whispered against the top of her head. “I want to take this further.”

She gazed up into his eyes. “Will you let me?” he breathed. “Do you want it as much as I do?”

All she could do was nod helplessly, and then he took her hand in his, their fingers threading tenderly together.

“My parents are in Santa Fe until tonight,” she said huskily.

Good to know, she heard across the connection, as he raised an eyebrow with a seductive smile.

He lead her into her bedroom, and she felt his deep, incredible contentment.

I’ve never been this happy before, Liz. Not once in my life.

Me, neither…


But as soon as she’d thought the words, she felt a sudden anxiety shoot through her mind.

“What?” he asked, looking back to her as they reached her bed.

“Don’t you want to know…about Kyle? About why I lied to you?” She wiped the tears away from her eyes.

He stared at her for a long moment, his brows knitting together slightly, and she felt their connection tighten…constrict just a bit. It was like he was drawing her closer to him…and she felt the briefest pain shoot across the connection from him, then it quickly faded.

“Not now….” He shook his head. “I think I have an idea of what happened,” he whispered, drawing her hand to his chest.

But she wasn’t prepared for what he did next.
He traced his finger lightly across her ring. Her wedding ring.

“I know it has something to do with this,” he said, his voice incredibly soft.

And she felt the tears begin again as he pulled her against him.

“I’ve hurt you enough already, Liz…now just let me love you. Let me heal you,” he breathed, guiding her gently to the bed.

Liz closed her eyes because there was nothing that she wanted more than just that.



posted on 2-Nov-2001 4:12:29 PM
PART EIGHTEEN

Max settled softly on the edge of Liz’s bed, and pulled her toward him, gently easing her onto his lap. She was so tiny and delicate, and fit against him just perfectly. He could feel her heart thundering as he pulled her close, nestling her near to him. He slipped his other hand around her waist, letting his fingers linger against her side, and slowly he eased her shirt up until his palm met her bare skin. She drew in a quick breath, and he smiled at her reaction. Such a simple gesture, yet it affected her so strongly.

You affect me so strongly, Max…

“And you me,” he whispered. But I think you know that by now.

He stared up into her deep chocolate colored eyes, his hands softly caressing the area underneath her shirt, trailing around to her back. Her body was so warm, so soft. She wrapped her arm around him, brushing her fingertips tenderly through the hair along the nape of his neck. She slipped her other hand underneath the front of his tee-shirt, stroking his stomach…upward to his chest. He closed his eyes because every place she touched left a trail of fire. She was setting him quietly ablaze.

Quietly, because everything had become amazingly still and silent between them, as this physical intimacy had begun to intensify. A hush had fallen over them, and there was only the sound of their breathing, their hearts.

And the feel of their hands on one another…leaving tiny blazes of fire in their wake.

Even the connection was changing, no longer roaring wildly between them, but instead becoming still like the surface of a quiet lake--yet absolutely golden…shimmering with warm sunlight.

Yes, their bond remained electric, mesmerizing-- and was still very much alive between them, just more… reverential. That’s what Max felt in his heart. The two of them were entering some place sacred together.

And they were entering as one…their souls knit together, thread into a single bond.

He closed his eyes and savored this moment. No other time would be their first, no other moment exactly like this one. This was what he’d wanted for so long…had barely dared to hope for. That someone could be with him, be this intimate with him-- connected to him--and not be afraid of who he really was. Until Liz that had only seemed an elusive dream.

Oh…until Liz. Then she’d changed him forever.

And he knew Liz wasn’t afraid, because he could feel her utter trust in him. She was laying herself in his hands—she was so small, so precious… like a tiny bird. He who had such energy thrumming all through his body, and alien hands capable of so much power, was gently stroking this beautiful, delicate creature who was his Liz.

Only in his dreams had this seemed possible.

He opened his eyes and saw her gazing down at him, adoration shining through those dark eyes.

I trust you completely, Max…you know that.

She cupped his face gently in her hands, turning it upward toward her.

You are the love of my life… that’s what you will always be, she whispered across the connection.

He felt his hands begin to tremble as the connection flared a bit between them. How could their bond be such a volatile thing? Have such a life of its own?

She pressed a gentle kiss against his forehead, brushing his bangs lightly out of the way. Her hands were trembling softly, too.

I love you, Liz. With all my heart…

And then without warning, the connection exploded wildly again, and she was all inside of him, all over him…little trails of electricity on his skin, within his body. He drew in a desperate breath. This was driving him to the brink and they hadn’t even begun kissing again…hadn’t removed one item of clothing. But every time the connection created this sensation of being inside of her, of her inside him…. Oh, God what it did to him.

His breathing was erratic, unsteady now. And Liz’s wasn’t much better. He stared up into her eyes and realized he was utterly powerless. She wasn’t in his hands… he was in hers. Desperate and hungry, he begged her with his gaze. Her hands stroked his cheek, and he felt his stubble bristle against her soft fingers as she began kissing his jaw, trailing the kiss to his mouth.

Helpless…utterly helpless.

Me, too,
she sighed across their connection.

He smiled lightly, meeting her lips with his own.

You weren’t supposed to hear that, he laughed softly.

There’s nothing you can hide from me now, Max. I’ve heard everything in your heart…

He pulled away slightly, staring up into her eyes in surprise. But of course she had.

I love that you’re different from me… that you have so much power within your hands, and yet you use them to touch me…so gently.

He drew in a sharp breath. He’d known this all before, for so long…but hearing it from her now, while they were connected in this deepest place of intimacy, healed something in his heart. It soothed some hidden chamber that needed to know she loved him without regret. Without fear. That even as he was completely exposed to her now, she could gaze at him with the pure adoration he saw reflected in her eyes.

Oh, Liz. It was all he could think, all he could even say across the connection. He could only breathe her name like a prayer.

I am yours, Max. Know that… nothing can take me from you. No one.

He smiled softly, savoring what he saw in her eyes. Raw, undisguised need… for him. She cupped his face tenderly in her small hands again, turning it upward to her.

“I love you, Max. I have always loved you.”

He kissed her warm lips, teasing her mouth very softly. He wanted her to feel everything she did to him. Not just the fevered passion of earlier, but also how she gentled his soul. This kiss was slow, deliberate, as he drew it out delicately. And she kissed him back just as tenderly…and slowly. A low moan escaped from the back of his throat, and then suddenly their kiss exploded into something wilder, hotter, as their lips parted. He explored her warm mouth with his tongue, and she responded in kind…a simple dance…a dangerous one.

His skin was growing hotter by the moment.
And their connection was changing, growing moodier, more dangerous. His breathing was so heavy, he had to get it under control. He closed his eyes and just felt her against him…and breathed in their bond.

Oh, she was in him…he in her. Did they even need more than this? Maybe this was how his race made love. Maybe it transcended the physical dimension. Because if he actually made love to her with his body, would they lose some of this--the feeling that their twin souls had been sealed one to another?

More heavy breathing… and Liz’s was just as erratic.

Too erratic.

His eyes flew open, meeting hers, just as she cried out. Max?

“What’s wrong?” he asked huskily.

And he noticed she was shaking, not just her hands now…her whole body.

Liz? He asked urgently. She was becoming frightened—he felt it, as it began to pass between them.

Max…The tremors in her body grew more pronounced. He felt panic rising within him. What if this connection between them—the way they’d joined--was starting to hurt her? God, what had he been thinking, just allowing this to happen? He was an alien and she wasn’t…maybe she couldn’t handle whatever this was.

He eased her slowly off of his lap onto the bed beside him, rubbing her arm soothingly.

“No, Max…that’s not it,” she answered unsteadily. “It’s okay…but I just feel something happening inside of me. Don’t you feel it?”

He shook his head slowly. “What do you mean, you feel something happening inside of you?” he pressed her urgently. “What kind of thing?”

“I don’t know Max…just hold me.” She shook her head, tears springing to her eyes. “Hold me please.”

He folded her within his arms, crushing her tightly against him.

Let’s break the connection right now, he whispered fervently.

No! No…don’t leave me, Max. She held onto him tightly, pressing her face into his chest.

He stroked her hair and was alarmed to realize how incredibly hot she had become--her forehead was burning up. He cursed himself for this. They’d never really known whether it was safe for them to be together this intimately. How could he have been so cavalier about something so foreign to both of them? Maybe this had been a form of alien sex, and maybe they weren’t compatible.

Max, would you please stop it? She cried out, pulling back to meet his gaze. Stop blaming yourself. This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. I want this more than anything…want you more than anything. I just think it might…be overwhelming my body a bit…maybe we should slow down for a moment.

She took his hand within her own, squeezing it tightly. He nodded slowly, burying his face against the top of her head.

Just rest here in my arms a minute, Liz.

He rubbed her back soothingly, feeling the tiny tremors in her body. They seemed to be subsiding now. He kissed her forehead and the connection rolled within him. He felt a little shiver ripple across his skin. This was unlike anything he’d ever dreamed of experiencing in his life—he didn’t want it to end if it didn’t have to.

Oh, and he wasn’t ready to disentangle from Liz’s soul… not yet.

Her soul was absolutely the most beautiful thing he’d ever glimpsed in his life. He actually saw it in his mind…rich colors, several of them, intertwining… dancing. He knew it was only his imagination…but he swore he really did see her soul.

But he realized that he didn’t just see Liz’s soul—he saw both of their souls, the way they were intertwined now, joined…mating.

Mating.

The word resounded in his head like a familiar echo. And he knew instantly, as the word shot through his mind that they had mated. That was it, what had been passing between them during these incredible moments. Even without the love making, without the added physical intimacy, they had just become life mates…. Alien style. The deep joining, the threading of their souls… it all felt strangely familiar.

And he knew in his heart that it was true.

Oh, God…how was he going to explain this to Liz, he thought with a shudder.

But no sooner than the realization had hit him, did he glance sideways at her and see her mouth open slightly.

He chewed on his lip, staring down for a moment, then met her wondrous gaze again. He felt hot tears spring to his eyes. He couldn’t stop them, not if he tried—and he never cried. But this was the most amazing thing… they hadn’t even meant to do it, and yet they had. Their souls had joined permanently, mating them—he was absolutely certain-- for life.

He felt the warm tears begin to spill across his face. Liz continued to shiver and he pulled her close against him.

There were no words…nothing either could say. They could only hold each other, and allow the radiant glow of the connection to electrify their bodies even more. Liz was definitely burning up, and while it concerned him, he’d felt peace ever since his realization.

“Max,” she whispered against his chest. “There’s something I need to tell you.”

Hmm…was all he could answer, he was so mesmerized by the moment.

You’re right. I know it for a fact, she murmured to him.



Cemented.... Future Max had said they had "cemented" their relationship the night of Gomez. Liz had thought he meant the amazing connection that he’d transferred to her--but now she realized that he had meant this other thing, this deeper place. A sort of inner sanctuary within the connection…something sacred and hidden.

It was supposed to have happened when they made love—but it had all occurred backwards because of Future Max transferring the connection to her that night. The connection was only a by-product of the lovemaking between their other selves on the other time line…this mating had happened the first time they made love.

The night of Gomez.

That was the night that things between them had been cemented. His words chased her now, their true meaning more than evident.

God, no wonder we wanted to get married so young. We were more than married already…. And she realized that despite Future Max’s efforts, what had just happened between the two of them was their destiny. It was simply meant to be, and even though this joining had occurred in a backwards fashion, it had still happened because it was the only fate they could walk out.

They were called to one another, and no amount of trying to avert that fact could change it.

She wanted Max to know, to understand before they made love—before this final giving of themselves to one another. She wanted him to know that he really was right…

That they now belonged to one another exclusively, irrevocably… for life.



PART NINETEEN

“Max, you’re right,” Liz whispered, pulling him tightly against her. She needed to be physically close, with what she intended to say. “About what’s happened between us.” She buried her face against his chest, and felt his heartbeat increase slightly as she nestled against his warmth.

Hmm… was all he whispered in reply, and she felt just how sated he was, as he began pressing light kisses against the top of her forehead.

Sated yet definitely needing more of her… all of her. His hands began their hungry exploration underneath her shirt again. He traced fiery paths all along her backside, teasing her as his warm hands drew ever more close to her breasts. Then the connection spun out between them anew, and her skin came alive with Max, as raw electric current shot all through her… and she felt it answer through him at the same moment. He cried out her name softly, as his mouth quickly found her own. She felt his desperation for her, and it only fueled her own burning need.

Everything between them seemed to build and grow, as the emotions shot back and forth across the connection. Every feeling within them was answered in the other, as the sensations rippled across their bond, creating a feverish momentum between them.

I want you, Liz. God, how I want you. And then he deepened the kiss, and somehow as he explored her mouth with his own, he was both gentle and rough all at once. She felt his hand cup her breast, and he began teasing her nipples through the soft cotton of her bra. She instantly sprang to life beneath his touch, and heard a quiet groan escape from him in response.

Their kisses grew deeper and then he trailed his wet mouth down her throat to her collarbone, nipping at her exposed flesh there. Her own cry caught in her throat, and she tangled her fingers rougly through his hair, kissing his forehead, his eyebrows. She wanted to shower him with all the amazing passion she felt growing within her.
She wanted him to know exactly what he did to her… what his body did to hers.

And the funny thing was, the more heated this physical dimension became, their connection seemed to grow quieter, allowing this other lovemaking to take precedence. The bond was still simmering there, just more muted and moody—but she knew it would spring to life at the slightest provocation.

Liz gasped quickly for air. He was literally taking her breath away—this was taking her breath away—and her own physical need for him was beginning to overwhelm her. A thought began surfacing in her mind, though, pressing at her slightly-- she’d wanted to tell him about that night a week ago. For some reason it had seemed important for him to know before they made love… she considered stopping what was unfolding so that he would know, but he just kept coaxing her further. His hands were all over her, and she felt his hot fingers slip just beneath the thin fabric of her bra… Max’s skin against her own.

God, she couldn’t stop this right now even if she tried.

It’s so beautiful,
he breathed across the connection. She felt a little thrill race between them at his words. Your soul is so beautiful, he continued, pressing his face into her hair. Did you know that I can see it? Joined with mine? He asked, his voice full of reverential wonder.

She smiled and answered him softly, with all the awe she felt in her own heart. “And we’re joined together forever now.”

She felt their connection give a quick leap at her words—but was surprised to sense a sudden melancholy change within him, as something restless and uncertain tried to surface.

What was she was sensing from him? It bothered her that she couldn’t identify it.

But then she recognized his emotions…fear… doubt… suddenly even in the midst of this amazing joining.

You’re so beautiful,” she quickly reassured him. She wrapped her hands around his neck and pulled him more tightly to her. His own hands stilled against her, and he slipped his fingers from within her bra, wrapping them loosely around her waist.

This change had been so unexpected… and she felt the heat between them dropping by quick degrees. But somehow she knew this had to happen, that it was part of what was unfolding between them.

He was struggling with something--that much was certain--Liz felt it pressing in on him…on both of them. And yet there was silence. Finally, she heard him across their connection, so very tentative.

Are you scared, Liz? I mean I don’t want… this…to frighten you.

She smiled faintly, peace enveloping her as she identified what was troubling him. Max, I already told you I could never be afraid of you.

He rushed ahead, his thoughts and impressions quickly encompassing her. I know, but this bond…what’s forming is so alien… She felt his brief hesitation, his insecurity. God, there’s no other way to say it, Liz. It’s just totally alien, what’s happened here…between us. He wrestled with something, and then it surfaced.

His words were so hushed, so vulnerable, they nearly killed her. Maybe you didn’t want it…

She pulled slightly away, and met his gaze. How could he even think she didn’t want him… want this? She saw tears shining in his eyes…and raw fear, as he pushed further. Maybe you weren’t ready for this much between us….

And then she felt his panic, as it sped across their bond, hitting her full force. He was terrified now… afraid of how open he’d become to her… desperately insecure that she might walk away.

Again, like that day at the cave.
Like when he’d thought she’d slept with Kyle.

Understanding dawned within her as she gazed into Max’s golden eyes, swimming with so many volatile emotions. It seemed that in the wake of their souls joining, all the dark hidden places were becoming illuminated, more quickly than either of them could even grasp – as if they simply had to be. A cleansing was required, and all the remaining barriers needed to be washed away forever between the two of them--only then would this union become perfection. Because now that their souls had been forged together as one, there was simply no room for secrets--only total illumination.

Liz pressed forward, determined to make him know her heart.

Max, I’m feeling and sensing every single thing that you are. How could it be anything but amazing to me? Thoughts and impressions were speeding through her mind, her heart-- she simply couldn’t stop them now.

She drew his hand to her chest, and pressed it against her heart. I want this… I want you, Max. You’re all I’ve ever wanted.

Liz… he stared down at the floor for a moment, and she felt a weight press in on her—there was something more. He was still wrestling within himself--trying to hide something, yet desperately wanting to reveal it. She placed a hand tenderly on his shoulder. “What?” she encouraged him, even though she was already sensing his coming words. But she waited for him to speak his heart to her. He needed to say it--this was crucial to the bond forging between them, getting past this barrier within him.

His eyebrows drew together for a moment, and she felt the struggle within him--desire to reveal his last hidden place.

Then in the quietest voice he said, “I once told you that you make me human,” he paused and tentatively met her gaze. She smiled, nodding softly, and knew that with each word he spoke, this was the final joining of their bond. He had to voice his deepest fears about being intimate with her.

“But I’ve never told you that you make me more alien,” he finished in a fierce whisper, looking away from her. You awaken things within me, Liz…

She cupped his face, turning it back toward her, so that he would meet her gaze.

Max…

Still, he stared down. Max, she repeated more insistently. Finally, he raised his eyes slowly to meet her own.

I love you. All of you…she said, squeezing his hand tightly, willing him to hear her with his heart.

He closed his eyes, and a rush of emotions passed from him as he continued. This… mating of our souls… I like how alien it feels. And that scares me because it’s something so wild… I mean, my God, we just mated. That’s not even human. And his eyes flew to hers and the connection leapt a little between them… it had been dormant for moments now, overridden by their words, their need to communicate on a different plane. His words continued to rush out, falling one upon the other in such rapid succession, she could hardly make them all out in her mind.

And there’s something else I’ve never told you… ever since you’ve been in my life, my powers have… increased. God, I can’t pretend to understand what you do to me, Liz.

Max, she started slowly, stroking the back of his hand with her thumb. She wanted to soothe him, wanted to heal him like he’d healed her so many times now. Oh, where to begin?

Something’s been awakening in me, too, Max… it has been for a long time. And all I know, is that I want every part of you, and if… you’re changing me, making me like you, then I love that, too.

His eyes flew to hers and were absolutely radiant as he gazed at her. And then suddenly in one very swift movement, he was kissing her, crushing his lips against hers, and the passion exploding between them was raw, desperate. She felt the connection expanding…wildfire, electricity began passing between them, shooting between them as sparks became a roaring blaze.

No. Not yet, she commanded, speaking to the bond that wanted to erupt between them, but as soon as she’d thought the words, his lips stilled against her own. Oh, no…he thought she’d meant him.

Max, all this doubt has to end here. Today. And I’m not finished telling you everything you need to hear. She pulled away from him slightly, and looked up into his eyes. “There’s more you need to know.”

All secrets needed to be brought to light…there would only be truth and illumination between them on this night when they sealed their hearts and minds together permanently.

She felt the doubt in him try to resurface, but pushed it away from her. He was going to know everything right now… and then she was going to ask him to make love to her, long and slow as he placed that final brand upon their union. When he marked her permanently, once and for all as his life mate—just as she would him.

She turned away from him slightly, and stared down at her hands. Her pulse grew more rapid…. Oh, where to begin?

“Max, you know I didn’t sleep with Kyle,” she said quietly, glancing sideways at him. He nodded, his expression serious—yet trusting and open.

“What you don’t know is why I lied to you about it,” she continued.

Liz, we don’t need to talk about that now. I know you… and I know it had something to do with… me.

She turned to him in utter shock.

How do you know?

I saw myself… during the connection. I don’t understand yet, but I know I did see myself… and I know that somehow I hurt you terribly. I felt it.
His last words were soft, barely more than a whisper echoing in her mind.

“Max, you have to know before we make love… I want everything totally open between us.”

“Okay,” he replied gently, caressing his hand down the length of her arm. She felt a little answer of energy within her body, but pressed it aside—she wanted to be free of the deception, needed it more than her next breath. She didn’t want anything separating them, and so the truth began to spill forth.

You used the granolith and came to me from the future… from the year 2014… and asked me to make you fall out of love with me. That’s why we made it look like I’d slept with Kyle, because we were trying to push you away from me…I kept trying to make you let go of me…all those horrible things I said about not wanting to die for you, but you just wouldn’t…and it was the only thing I could think of…. Liz’s words were rushing out now, overlapping and tumbling forth--and she didn’t even stop to question whether she was making any sense. You asked me to push you toward Tess…

She glanced up at him, and saw something flash in his eyes. She was surprised to see anger there. Was he angry at her? Did he not believe her?

He clenched his jaw tightly, and she saw a muscle twitch slightly there. He knit his brows together as he stared at some place over her shoulder, away from her. Panic began to rise within her… and their connection had cooled so, she wasn’t sure what he was thinking. He opened his mouth to speak, then closed it again, running a shaky hand through his hair.

“Max, what are you thinking right now?” She asked fearfully. “Please tell me what you’re thinking.”

His eyes swept the room, and then met her own. She could see the anger roiling quietly within him—saw it in the way his amber eyes had darkened.

“Why would I do something like that to you?” He ground out. “What possible reason could I have for hurting you so?”

Oh, God… his anger was at himself.

“No, Max.” She shook her head fervently, and moved closer to him. “You don’t understand.”

“What don’t I understand? That I asked you to do something…” his words trailed off for a moment, as he cast his eyes around the room. “That you should never have had to do. How could I have intentionally hurt you so, knowing how much everything with Tess had already hurt you."

Because you had to… you had no other choice.

His eyes flitted quickly to her own, and the golden depths shifted again.

She left Roswell… because of what happened between us. And the four of you weren’t as strong because you made a complete unit, and your enemies had overtaken Earth… you were desperate Max. The future version of you was absolutely desperate… everyone was dying. But we just went about changing things the wrong way.

Max was silent for a very long moment, and stared down at their intertwined fingers. She wasn’t sure what he was feeling, so she reached for the connection and felt it spring roughly to life. It was different, almost violent as it came alive between them—it was shot full of Max’s roiling anger…and it hit her with full force, causing her body to shudder.

And then it spun in a new direction and just as quickly gentled. He cupped her face within the palm of his hand, and touched his forehead lightly against her own.

“What happened between us, Liz?” His voice was a prayer, a mere breath.

She closed her eyes because this was where they’d been leading all along.

We made love the night of Gomez… when you came to my room.

And then she was silent… the connection was silent for the briefest moment, and every detail within her room came sharply into focus. The late afternoon sunlight filtering across her floor, the stars of David on the wall, the curtain fluttering lazily in the breeze… moments became an eternity.

You told me that was when things between us were cemented, she finally continued. And that’s how I know we’re right about this joining between us, Max. Your future self didn’t tell me that…but I know in my heart that’s what you were trying to avoid, so that Tess wouldn’t leave.

Again, more silence.

She glanced up at him tentatively, but his eyes were tightly closed.

What was he thinking?

But before she could question him, he sprang suddenly from the bed and knelt in front of her. He took her hands tenderly within his own, pressing them quickly to his lips.

“Oh, Liz…can you forgive me? For doing such a terrible thing to you?” He stared up at her, caressing her hands within his own, and she felt a little shiver cross her skin. “For how I treated you afterward… in Copper Summit?”

She leaned forward and pressed a soft kiss against his forehead. There’s nothing to forgive…nothing, Max. But I can’t live without you, I know it more than ever now.

We’ll find a way to deal with Tess… to keep her from leaving,
he promised urgently.

She shivered slightly at his words. In all that had happened this afternoon, she hadn’t really allowed herself to think about Tess. She sensed that Max felt her anxiety, and he pressed a reassuring hand against her thigh.

“We will figure this out with her… we can tell her what we know.”

Liz covered his hand with her own, and nodded slowly. She felt their connection wooing her, and as she glanced up into Max’s eyes, realized he was calling it forth. He wanted it to come alive again. Slowly, he rose to his feet, and settled next to her on the edge of the bed.

“Liz…” his voice was husky and deep. He drew his face within a mere breath of her own, and she heard his thought as it passed across their bond. There are no more secrets…now let me make you completely my own. Let me give myself fully to you.

Her cheeks flamed quickly at his words, and she felt the warmth radiate throughout her whole body. Because now they were laid bare to one another… and they were going to belong to each other in every possible way.

Her eyes locked with his own, their ragged breaths falling into a single rhythm… and she listened to the silence that surrounded the moment. Their moment…. And finally she answered him softly, in the only way she possibly could.

“Make love to me, Max,” she whispered hoarsely. “Please just make love to me.”



posted on 2-Nov-2001 4:15:24 PM
PART TWENTY

“Oh, Liz,” he breathed huskily, and cupped her face within his hands. He began a deliberate, tantalizing seduction, as he pressed his mouth gently, incredibly delicately, to her own. He wanted to pleasure her in ways she couldn’t dream of… hadn’t known existed, and he wanted to take his time with it.

Their connection had already pushed him close to the edge, so he was prepared to hover there as long as necessary to make this perfect for Liz. He’d felt himself deep inside her all afternoon, and her inside of him…making love back and forth across the connection, like some erotic dance.

And yet he’d hardly touched her.

His breath caught as he wondered what would happen, now that their moment had finally come… this time when they would explore each other so freely. He closed his eyes, and simply savored the feel of Liz against him--her tiny frame in his arms, the warmth of her lips against his own. The connection between them began to simmer, rolling a bit as it became more raw and alive.

Max trailed hot kisses down Liz’s throat, ending at her collarbone. He paused for a moment, tracing his finger across the dark freckles that dusted her skin there, and then he kissed those, too. He let his mouth linger at the base of her throat, suckling softly for a moment. He hoped he’d give her plenty of glowing hickeys—and then he’d heal every one of them when he was finished. Well, maybe he’d leave just one or two for her to discover later tonight when he was gone.

Something to remind her of their night once it was over--a promise of seductions to come in the future.

He heard her soft laughter. You’re really focused on those hickeys, Max.

He smiled as he trailed more fiery kisses across her bare skin. I want to leave my mark on you.

You already have, she replied huskily.

I’m already completely yours.

He paused a moment, glancing up at her. “Not quite,” he whispered. “But you will be.”

Then suddenly he panicked, as he realized he didn’t have protection. She heard his concern and smiled softly.

It’s okay, Max, she reassured him.

“No.” He shook his head vehemently. “No, we’ve got to have…”

Really, it’s okay, she laughed. I may not be Catholic, but I do understand the rhythm method.

He laughed in response, feeling suddenly embarrassed as he brushed her hair lightly away from her face. I really do know my body....It will be fine, she promised again.

He relaxed and eased her slowly backwards onto the bed, slipping his hands tentatively beneath her shirt. Her skin was so soft beneath his palms, so electrified by this connection. She was raging with fever… but it no longer concerned him. He knew it was just part of this mating between them.

He liked knowing he had the power to make her blaze like this, to literally set her on fire inside and out. His heart raced wildly at the thought, and he could only moan low in his throat in response. In turn, she pulled him tightly toward her, down upon her more firmly, and a thrill sped across their connection as he felt himself slip easily on top of her. He felt his hardness press against her leg—and he knew that she’d felt it as she leapt slightly at the intimacy of his closeness.

Oh, but she wasn’t scared…he felt how she craved him as her need shot across their bond. The deepening awareness of just how much she desired him was simply his undoing. He pressed himself against her lower body, and felt her thrust gently upwards in response, a slow rhythm beginning between them. And with each movement of their bodies against one another, the connection answered their call…deepened, turned back upon them. Their souls were so entwined now, dancing, making love—their bodies were simply trying to catch up. And this added physical dimension was only intensifying every sensation shimmering across their bond, incredibly taking them to yet a deeper place.

Max hadn’t thought it possible.

He shifted slightly on top of her, and was suddenly reminded of how tiny and delicate she was beneath him. For a moment he hesitated, pulling back to stare down into her black eyes. She placed a hand softly against his cheek and suddenly all the raging need between them gentled, grew quiet as they simply gazed at one another. Her simple act had spun their passion in a new direction, had caused a reverential hush to fall over the moment. He pressed his mouth into her palm, kissing it tenderly.

This woman that he loved, so delicate and beautiful, could change him in an instant. She could command his emotions like the whisper of a wind--she could choose whether to tame or electrify him. He was utterly helpless in her hands, and didn’t care that she had such control over him…over their connection and his body.

You are my queen, he whispered quietly, stroking her luxurious hair beneath his fingers.

With those simple words, their connection exploded like wildfire again, raging across his skin, dancing between them and drawing them ever closer.

Liz pulled his mouth roughly to her own, and he heard a low sound escape from the back of her throat. He allowed his trembling hands to begin their seduction underneath her shirt, as he found her soft breasts again. He cupped her within his hands, teasing her nipples roughly through her cotton bra. He felt her spring to life at his simplest touch, her nipples becoming erect beneath the play of his fingers, and he was nearly undone. He fumbled awkwardly with the buttons on her blouse, as he continued to rain kisses on her throat, her ear, the nape of her neck. It was difficult to maneuver the buttons, when he wanted her out of that blouse so much.

As he continued his exploration of her body, she captured his fingers gently within her own, stilling his hand where it struggled with the buttons. He smiled against her hair, as she began slowly unfastening her blouse for him, and he pulled back to see the shirt fall open, exposing her bare flesh. As he gazed down at her amazing body, he thought his heart might literally stop within his chest.

She was everything he’d dreamed she’d be—her creamy skin was dusted with those freckles that he adored. And he was amazed to discover that they trailed down to places he’d never seen. She had one on her breast, just along the edge of her bra, and he pressed his lips to it. He wanted to devour her. He slipped his hands beneath her back, unclipping her bra with surprising deftness.

At least that part was easy, he laughed coyly.

You deserved at least one break, she teased back.

“Umm…” he moaned softly, slipping her out of her bra. Her breasts fell open within his hands now, and he allowed his tongue to trail along from her freckle to her nipple, drawing it swiftly within his mouth. It was so hard and firm as he suckled it between his lips, tasting its richness. His tongue toyed gently with her, and he felt her shiver slightly in response.

Max, she cried out, as her fingers threaded roughly through his hair. Her lower body pressed upward against him.

You’re driving me crazy, she breathed.

Good…he murmured. That makes us even then.

And with that, she did something that caught him completely by surprise. She rolled him off of her and he followed in one swift movement, so that now she lay on top of him.

Oh, God Liz… I was already in enough trouble, he breathed, smiling up at her.

She smiled back, a lazy seductive grin…

Max… it’s about to get a whole lot worse, sweetheart.

She pulled him roughly to her, her mouth seeking his urgently. She didn’t even want this to be gentle… at least not in the beginning. As her tongue sought his mouth, his lips parted, and she felt the connection simply roar to life…heard it begin humming in her ears, through her mind…and heard it answer from his soul.

No, she definitely didn’t want this to be gentle, because that was the last thing she felt. She was wild and hungry for him, especially with how long their connection had been tantalizing her body… had been teasing her in every way.

The way she’d been feeling him all inside of her, on her skin, emersed in all of her senses had nearly undone her. He had been making love to her ever since downstairs, and now she wanted all of him inside her. She wanted Max to brand her permanently, seal her to himself in this one final way.

She trailed fiery kisses down his jaw line, and his skin was incredibly hot below her lips—this energy passing between them had definitely charged his whole body, just as it had her own. But it seemed he’d been able to handle the physicality of it a bit better, perhaps because the energy originated within him, or maybe just because it was more compatible with his alien nature.

She pulled his face upward to her own, his soft lips parting as she began exploring his mouth urgently with her tongue. His breathing was labored and heavy, and she swore his heart would leap from his chest. He swept her blouse from her shoulders, then her bra, and her heated skin chilled slightly at the exposure.

She raised up a bit, slowly sliding his tee-shirt upward. She began kissing his flat, smooth stomach, his chest. Her mouth lingered over one nipple, sucking on it for a moment, and she heard him cry her name softly.

Roughly, he pulled her back down toward him, and she stopped when their faces nearly touched. She gazed into his eyes for a moment, listening to their ragged breaths --and was surprised to see how dark and tempestuous his eyes had become. It was literally as if their color had changed as their bodies had grown more intimate—and their depths looked more dangerous than she could have imagined.

Slowly, she eased his tee-shirt up further, and he quickly pulled it over his head. She splayed her palms against his warm chest, and marveled at how beautiful his body was. He was all leanness and muscle, and his skin was so surprisingly soft beneath her touch. She traced little circular patterns around his nipples, and her breath caught in her throat when she noticed that the paths were shimmering ever so slightly.

“Max,” she cried in wonder. Look, you’re glowing.

He glanced downward, his long lashes fanning against his cheeks, then his eyes met hers again. He smiled lazily at her, cupping her face within his palm. Liz Parker, you’re just full of surprises, aren’t you? He flirted.

Then very gently he rolled her off of him, so that they lay on their sides, facing one another—and she shivered as her breasts met his bare chest. Wildfire shot between them, ricocheted crazily as he pulled her firmly against him.

And then suddenly she felt very daring.

She slipped her hand quickly between his legs, and felt the rough fabric of his jeans as she began to slowly, hungrily move her hand back and forth between his thighs.

“Liz,” he cried out loudly, then drew his breath quickly in, as he buried his face in her hair.

Don’t you want that? She asked softly, feeling a bit insecure. She hadn’t expected to startle him so.

“Oh, yes, how I want you,” he groaned. It feels perfect, Liz, just perfect.

Then his own hand slowly eased her skirt up, until he found his way between her legs, pressing them slightly apart, and she couldn’t believe how wet she suddenly became at his touch. There was only the thin fabric of her silky underwear separating his fingers from her now, as he teased her. He began rubbing her gently, and then very slowly she felt his warm fingers slip beneath her underwear. With his mouth he kissed her roughly, hungrily, and yet his fingers explored her with such incredible gentleness… such reverence.

She was powerless, absolutely powerless against his touch, and could only lay in his arms as he slowly slipped his finger inside of her…back and forth he pleasured her, and she felt herself nearing some kind of precipice from the mere touch of his hands.

“Max,” she murmured quietly. Oh, Max.

Something began to change within their bond, as it grew more insistent… it wasn’t just their bodies that demanded more, the connection seemed to compel it now, too. She felt her breathing grow more erratic, heard how his matched her own, and she let her hand resume its exploration between his own thighs.

Two can play this game, Max. A sigh escaped his lips, and he reached to unbutton his jeans, slipping them loosely over his hips. Her hands explored him, and she felt the soft fabric of his boxers beneath her fingertips. She slipped her hand tentatively inside, reaching for him. His heart was hammering against her own, and she marveled at the way their bare chests felt against each other. Then, she felt him…something so utterly foreign, she hadn’t been able to imagine how it would feel. She took him roughly within the palm of her hand, and he leapt slightly at her touch. He was so surprisingly soft…yet incredibly firm all at once. She rubbed him slowly between her fingers, and felt a little wetness form within her palm.

He groaned at her exploring touch. Liz, he begged.

And she felt a little thrill of fear… God, how would that ever fit inside of her? What if aliens were just…bigger?

He began laughing huskily, and she felt suddenly shy and vulnerable. He pulled back, and gazed into her eyes.

I’m not laughing at you, Liz, he breathed.

But I can promise you that’s one part of me that’s absolutely human.

Then she began laughing giddily, drunkenly.

Every sensation in her body was so new…and she wanted him inside of her now. No more teasing, no more waiting.

Max…

But he was already answering her, as he shrugged quickly out of his jeans. She slipped her skirt over her hips.

There was only their two bodies now. Well, and my panties, she thought, but he quickly snaked those down her legs—and she got her first really good look at his amazing body as he hovered just over her. He was so lean, so lithe…all his muscles so elegantly defined.

She thought her heart would literally stop within her chest at the full sight of him. She felt his deep pleasure spiral across their connection…that he loved what his body did to her own.

She cupped his face between both her hands, and pulled him down to her, whispering her earlier plea like a prayer.

“Make love to me, Max…please.”

He hesitated a moment, gazing down adoringly into her eyes , and she felt something well up within her. All the love he felt for her suddenly embraced her…shot through her at the very core of her being. And at that precise moment, she felt him press between her legs, coaxing her apart as he began to slide inside her. Oh, the feeling of him within her, just hovering at the edge…. She wanted all of him. Now.

He pressed his face against hers and whispered softly, “I don’t want to hurt you, Liz. I love you too much, but…”

Max, please…just… God, she felt so helpless, and her breathing was so erratic she couldn’t think straight.

I want you, please.

And with one quick thrust she felt him enter her, felt his warmth encompass her fully, even as a sharp answer of pain shot through her. It was all she’d ever wanted… to be one with him in every way. He stilled for a moment, as he settled inside of her, and stroked her hair, kissing her forehead tenderly.

Their gaze met for a moment, and she felt hot tears spring to her eyes. Then a shadow fell across his features, and she sensed a little lurch of fear within him.

Liz, did it hurt too much? he asked softly.

Was I too rough?

She smiled, stroking his hair away from his forehead.

No, Max…that’s not why I’m crying. I’m crying because this is so beautiful… that you’re inside of me.

He rested his forehead against her own and started a very gentle rhythm within her, rocking back and forth, and she began to answer it with her own body.

And then she felt their connection constrict and expand, creating its own twin rhythm within their souls…back and forth as they pushed to the brink…and beyond.

He murmured her name over and over…through the connection…and out loud.

Each moment of this joining felt eternal…sacred, because even though she hadn’t believed it possible, they were mating even more deeply now. His name was being blazed upon her heart, and hers etched upon his mind. Back and forth, they were being called to one another, forged together permanently, as the moment spun out endlessly.

And as they reached the crescendo of their desire, she sensed something happen within both of them. She felt them join physically, spiritually…and an inner sanctuary within their connection solidified. As they cried out each others names, their desire having met its completion…as he shuddered within her body, and she felt his warm wetness spill within her… she knew.

She simply knew...

They had cemented every element of their connection now, sealed themselves to one another irrevocably and without question…forever.

PART TWENTY ONE

Max lay facing Liz, trailing his hand lazily along her side… stroking her hip, her upper thigh, then tracing the path back upward again. They’d been completely hushed ever since they’d finished making love. There were simply no words now, just the pure sense of completion they had found in one another. He could only gaze into her radiant dark eyes and lose himself-- could only trace his fingers across her flushed bare skin. He wanted to worship her, and words just wouldn’t do justice to all the things in his heart.

Only his eyes could show her, only his soul could speak across this joining.

He still burned for her, even though his body was deeply sated. The desire thrummed endlessly between them, calling back and forth… and yet this was something different than their earlier ripe need. He traced his palm lightly down her arm, onto her abdomen, and watched a glimmering path of silver form in its wake. He stopped when his hand came to rest on her soft stomach, and allowed his fingers to rest there for a moment.

What if he hadn’t saved her that day in the Crashdown?

He would never have known this moment, would never have experienced the future that now spread so openly before them.

He rubbed his thumb softly back and forth across the place where she’d been shot, stroking the heated skin there, almost yearning to heal her again. He wanted to take away the memory of that day from her mind, for surely it must still haunt her. He stared down at the beautiful creamy skin of her abdomen, so smooth and perfect. And then slowly he slid downward in her bed until his wet mouth met her stomach, and he pressed radiant, deliberate kisses against her there.

He was overwhelmed with the emotions in his heart, the way he wanted to protect this woman who was now such a part of him. He hated even remembering that she’d ever hurt at all… or that his future self had caused her such heartbreak.

That he had broken her heart, too… more than once.

All he wanted was to shield Liz, heal her. He continued raining tender kisses along her belly, and then he turned so that his cheek rested gently against her there. He had spilled himself within her tonight, and it amazed him to think that one day they might create a baby together…that their child might grow within her womb. He closed his eyes, savoring the notion… not that he wanted it now, but he loved the idea of a tiny life forged from their pure love. A child both alien and human… accepted fully by its parents, even with all that it was.

He felt Liz stroke his hair lightly away from his forehead, and then her small hand caressed his bare shoulders, lingered down along his upper back-- loving him fully, with every whisper of her skin against his own.

He only ever wanted to be just like this… bound up within her, drinking her in with all of his senses.

Again, he traced his fingers along the place where she’d been shot, and kissed her lovingly there.

What if he hadn’t been there that day at the Crashdown? What if he’d never had all of her, like this? Would he have wandered his whole life, seeking someone that he would never find—this twin mate to his own soul?

Liz sighed faintly, and her own deep contentment enveloped him. Across their bond, he knew how treasured she felt by him, how totally adored—just as he wanted her to. But something shifted slightly within their joining, and he couldn’t quite name it.

He slid upward in the bed again, until his face was within a breath of her own, and she stilled a gentle hand against his cheek.

You’ve already healed me… in every way, Max.

She placed her palm softly on his own muscled abdomen, in just the place where she’d been shot. He felt something stir within him there, a burning sensation that leapt at her mere touch.

What was happening?, he wondered.

You changed me forever that day, she whispered fiercely.
The burning intensified within him, flaring upward slightly into his chest as he met her gaze.

I wanted you to know what it felt like when you healed me Max, she said softly, now stroking his abdomen slowly beneath her fingers. This is what its like to be touched by you…

How had she done it? And how had she known it was precisely what his soul needed at this moment?

I don’t know, but it was in my heart…and I wanted you to feel your own touch…what your gift really is, Max.

He felt tears well up within his eyes, as he pressed his lips quietly against hers--and then his body answered in gentle arousal. He slid his hips close to her own, cupping her from behind as he pulled her near. She eased her arms around his his neck, drawing him closer, and the connection resonated with their growing desire.

Ripples of sunlight, skittering between them…something dormant growing quietly restless and demanding. Their bond was beckoning them again, cresting between them.

He groaned slightly in frustration. They couldn’t make love again, not with the way Liz’s room was starting to grow dark. That meant her parents would be home before long, and they couldn’t risk being discovered. He deepened their kiss for one final moment, allowing his tongue to intertwine and tease with her own. His heart began to pound more insistently… Liz’s skin began to flush beneath his hands…

They had to stop.

Slowly Liz broke the kiss, rolling away from his body a bit. He closed his eyes and tried to rein in the emotions that had erupted so suddenly within him…between them. The connection had become white hot again so instantly, only fueling the desire that had begun to churn within them both.

How would he even face parting from her later tonight? Or being near her again tomorrow at school, without allowing their connection to wildly unfurl?

She laughed gently, and took his hand within her own. You’re going to have to behave in Chemistry, Max.

He smiled and met her gaze, so tantalizingly seductive.

Only if you don’t look at me then like you are right now…if you do, it’ll all be over, Liz.

She tipped her chin upward coyly. Oh, it will, Mr. Evans? And what exactly will you do to me?

He was amazed by the ease with which they spoke across the connection now… it was so natural, just like talking out loud--yet more intimate and tempestuous. He glanced down for a moment, smiling conspiratorially.

Do you want me to tell you, Liz? Or just wait for me to show you then? He teased.

She stretched lazily in the bed, nestling her arms beneath her head. Her breasts rose beautifully with the gesture, and his eyes drank all of her in.

I think you should tell me now, she breathed seductively.

Her breasts arched so delicately, he wanted to take them in his mouth again… Oh, this was getting him nowhere fast. He couldn’t break away from her… she just kept calling him back, over and over.

You were saying? She prompted with a teasing laugh. His eyes flew to her own, and his mouth fell open a bit.

“You’re doing this to me on purpose,” he gasped aloud. She smiled radiantly in reply, settling her hands more fully underneath her head.

It’s working, isn’t it? She asked.

Just you wait until class… I’m going to make you pay for this, sweetheart, he threatened.

She met his gaze playfully. Tell me what you’re going to do to me, Max.

“Okay, but unless you want me to completely devour you right now,” he grasped the edge of the sheet, pulling it lightly over her. Then you better not tempt me so.

Their laughter spiraled between them, giddy and joyful—it had been such a long time since they had laughed as freely as they had this afternoon. He turned to face her in bed, resting on his elbow.

You were saying, she flirted.

He smiled at her softly. “Well, for one thing… I’ll immediately begin by wearing down your defenses… I’ll keep reaching for the connection, and it will drive you slowly crazy.”

She glanced sideways at him under half-lowered lashes, and he felt a little thrill shoot through him. And then, you won’t be able to resist…and you’ll reach for it, too…and once that happens, it’s all over for you, He whispered, softly shaking his head. He brushed a stray hair away from her face, a smile playing at his lips.

Because then I’ll make love to you, right in chemistry class… without ever touching you, he continued huskily.

Max, she groaned slightly. If you do that to me, I’ll never forgive you.

He chewed on his lip for a moment, and took her hand within his. Maybe you won’t forgive me if I don’t.

Umm… was all she replied, and they fell into silent contentment again. He rubbed his thumb along her hand, then drew it slowly to his mouth.

And then he noticed the ring.

Their eyes met quickly, and he felt something strange turn over in his chest. He’d known the ring was important, but had forgotten it until now. Slowly, she pulled her hand away from his, and he felt something shift within their bond... something crucial flared within Liz.

She slipped the ring from her finger, and held it out to him in her upturned palm. He could only stare at it mutely for a moment, and then very tentatively he took it from her.

But he knew before he ever held it exactly what it meant between them.

“It’s your wedding ring, isn’t it, Liz?” he asked in a hushed voice. “From the future?”

“Read the inscription,” she replied reverentially. “You won’t believe it.”

He held the ring up so that he could read the faint engraving, and felt a wave of shock resonate through him…and then a deep answering thrill shot across their bond from Liz.

“That day in class,” he whispered. “Oh, I wanted you back so terribly Liz. I would have done anything… I so wanted you to know that I didn’t care about my destiny—that I only wanted you.”

He closed his eyes at the memory, and she touched his shoulder, stroking it beneath her hand. “Read the rest,” she urged softly.

His eyes fluttered open, and he saw the date inscribed within the band. July 12, 2002, he breathed in awe. My God, we were just kids.

But I understand now, Max, she laughed. How could we have stood hiding this from our parents? Not being together all the time, when we were truly mated…so much more than married anyway?

He slid the ring onto his pinky and stared at it for a long moment. “So, I gave this to you—I mean, the future version of me?”

She nodded. “And he gave Future Me his own ring.”

Future me… he laughed crazily. Mini Me, Future Me…he turned the words over playfully in his mind. Then he quickly grew serious again. “How could I have left you there… in 2014, Liz? I left you totally alone.”

Max, she began. I don’t know everything that had happened, but I do know a terrible war was going on… we’ll have to talk about all of that, try to prepare ourselves… the others. And mostly we have to keep Tess here, no matter what. Otherwise it will all still happen.

He nodded somberly, turning the ring slowly on his finger—and knew just how dangerous things must have been if he’d been willing to leave Liz in the future.

He handed the ring back to her, placing it within her palm. “So, you put this ring on that night… didn’t you?” he asked, meeting her gaze intently. “The night I thought you’d slept with Kyle.”

She cast her eyes downward, away from him. A little shiver of pain shot through her, and moved across their bond. He reached his hand to her, tipping her chin slowly upward, until her eyes met his own--and he was shocked by the raw emotion reflected in them.

“Even if I couldn’t have you… I still wanted you to be the husband of my heart,” she whispered hoarsely.

Liz…what are you saying?

And his heart stopped within him—he swore it did.

She was quiet a long moment, then captured his hand within her own, pressing a tender kiss into his palm. I was going to be your wife… no matter what happened between you and Tess… even if I was the only one who knew.

He was stunned…he couldn’t fathom the depths of her love for him—except he could, because he loved her in exact and equal measure. She had been willing to be true to him, to consider herself his wife even if only within her heart. He pulled her roughly into his arms and simply held her.

It was the only way I could imagine facing life without you.

He cupped her face within both his hands, turning it upward. And now you are so much more than my wife, he whispered fiercely across their connection. And one day, we will marry… but that will only be a formality, for the world to see what we already know exists between us.

She nodded softly, and he pressed his forehead gently against hers.

“Elizabeth Evans,” he whispered quietly. “Will you wear this ring…in honor of what we became to one another today?”

He pulled back so that he could see her eyes—could judge her reaction-- and was unsettled to see tears streaming down her face. He wiped them gently away with his thumb, as she gazed downward at the ring.

“I would have worn it anyway, Max” she replied huskily. Then she looked up at him suddenly. You called me Elizabeth Evans, she gasped as awareness dawned.

He nodded with a sly smile. I know I did…it’s who you are, Liz… after today.

He pulled her into his arms and rocked her softly against him. But so much more than that, too, he finished.

And they held each other like that, rocking together slightly as the twilight began to fade in Liz’s room. Max knew they needed to dress, had to leave this first time of incredible intimacy behind them, but neither of them could seem to make the break.

“Liz,” he urged softly. “Your parents will be here soon, won’t they?”

“Yes,” she nodded quietly, easing out of his arms. “I know we need to get dressed.”

She slid across the bed, trailing her hand across his nakedness as she passed over him. He watched her gorgeous body as she moved across the room. He loved the way her hips swelled slightly…she was already such a woman at just seventeen. She glanced around the room, finally finding her bathrobe where it lay across the back of her desk chair.

She glanced over her shoulder at him and smiled playfully. “You are coming, aren’t you?” she teased. He groaned and slowly rolled out of bed, planting his feet obediently on the floor. She slipped easily into her soft cotton bathrobe, but then she stopped, suddenly staring down at her keyboard.

“Max,” she asked softly. “What’s this?”

He joined her beside the desk, his body chilling suddenly as the breeze from the open window met his bare skin. She turned to him and handed him the white envelope.

“It’s addressed to both of us,” she said curiously.

Max stared down at it for a long moment, his brows furrowing. Methodically, he began to tear the envelope open, and he had to wonder--who would have left a letter for both of them in Liz's room?





[ edited 1time(s), last at 2-Nov-2001 4:19:32 PM ]

posted on 2-Nov-2001 4:28:12 PM
PART TWENTY TWO

Max sat on the edge of Liz’s lounge chair, holding her hand softly within his own. He stroked his thumb lightly across her knuckles, and stopped to trace a pattern along the back of her wedding ring. She nestled close to him, and he inhaled her wonderful scent.

They had been sitting quietly like this for nearly thirty minutes on her porch.

Absolutely dumbfounded. Speechless.

And then periodically one of them would silently unfold the mysterious letter and read it again.

His body buzzed with the warmth of their lovemaking… still hummed with Liz and their connection. Inside and out he felt her, that hadn’t diminished—but the letter had turned their world on its very axis. He shivered a little as the cool night air touched his flushed skin, and he settled closer to Liz.

Liz… his true bride.

His Zillia…


He closed his eyes for a long moment, and then he felt Liz’s small palm stroke the length of his arm. Slowly, his eyes fluttered open, and he glanced sideways at her. It was so like Liz—she’d had the shock of her life in the last thirty minutes, and yet he could feel that her only concern was for him.

He sensed the fullness of her love surround him, encompass him…reach toward him.

Max? She hesitated a moment, resting her hand on his forearm. You’re so quiet… are you okay?

He nodded slowly, drawing her hand to his lips, kissing it tenderly.

“Max, it’s true. It has to be,” she whispered urgently. “No one else knew about your coming back in time. No one else knew why you did—and what you asked me to do.”

Of course its true, he replied fervently, gazing at her for a long moment. I think I always knew you were my bride, Liz.

Tonight had only confirmed it for him. Their joining had felt so familiar, so absolutely natural between them—it was part of how he’d recognized it for what it was.

Because it was something he’d known before.

And now he understood that he’d recognized their mating… across lifetimes.

He watched Liz chew her lip a long moment, and noticed that she’d begun to turn her wedding ring unconsciously around her finger.

“This changes everything,” she whispered seriously, staring at her hands. “For all of us—especially Tess.”

“Well, it doesn’t change anything between us, “ he reminded her gently, tracing his hand up the length of her thigh.

No, not between us… now, she whispered, and he saw her flush deeply in the darkness.

Somehow, I’ve always known what you were to me, Liz…always. Her eyes flew to his. “And I knew it for certain tonight,” he breathed, cupping her face within his hands.

Tears pooled suddenly in her eyes. I always wanted it to be true…that day at the cave…the months afterward, all I ever wished was that it was me instead of Tess, she confessed quietly.

He drew her body close to his, pressing a slow, deliberate kiss to her mouth. Oh, my love… my wife, he sighed.

She answered his kiss softly, delicately, but he felt something grow anxious within her. He pulled back quickly, staring into her dark eyes for a long moment.

“What about Tess?” She asked. “How will we ever explain this to her? What if she leaves?”

He groaned inwardly. How would they ever explain this to Tess? And she couldn’t leave Roswell. But he felt dread rise up within his own heart--it was so difficult to trust her, yet she was such a crucial part of their unit.

We have to trust Marco’s letter…and he says that she will stay if she knows, he replied.

Max reached for the letter, which had been resting loosely on Liz’s lap. Maybe if they studied it, more answers would present themselves—a strategy for revealing everything to the others.

Liz handed him the thin piece of paper and he began to read the scrawling letter again. The handwriting was difficult to decipher, yet the words still rang true within his heart.


My Dearest Max and Liz—

This is the most difficult letter I’ve ever had to write. So much is at stake, so many lives in the balance—your own in particular.

You do not yet know me, though one day you will. My name is Marco McKinley and in 2006 I came to serve as your protector. At the time, there was much you’d yet to learn about your destiny…who you were. Yet you knew more than you do right now. I can’t explain many details, except to tell you that I’ve traveled here from the year 2014—Max, I followed your future self here by using the granolith…and I will die today protecting you.

I will die within the next few minutes…serving my true king and queen.

Liz, not only did I acknowledge you as my queen in the future, you were my queen in the past. Right now, I know that you believe Tess is Max’s bride, but the truth is that it was always you. You were our beloved Queen Zillia…wife to Zan. You’re a hybrid, just like the others…but your identity was concealed for a time to protect both you and Max.

But the plan went terribly wrong.

Tess was critical to your survival. She was Max’s second in command… his strategist…and was incredibly strong. There were five of you sent, but when you initially received the message through the communicator, it was misunderstood for several years--until a second message was intercepted, explaining more fully each of your true identities. But by then Tess had left Roswell…and she had gone to Khivar’s side. She never learned who she was until many years later, and by then she was fully in the enemy camp.

And a gaping whole had been left permanently within your unit…

It is imperative that you all learn your true destinies… you must follow them. Max and Liz--the two of you were kept separate for as long as possible because once your powers joined, you would become completely one…I am not certain, but I believe this joining has already happened between the two of you?

Liz, you have Max’s gift of healing and he has your gift of intuition. You compliment one another purely, and balance each other fully—each sharing in the other’s gifts and power.

There is much you are capable of Liz…but you must cultivate your powers, work at them, because your pod was severely damaged in the crash. It is why you seem entirely human.

But you are not.

And you are just as critical to our survival as Tess is. Each of you is key.

Tess will accept her destiny and serve Max loyally, so long as she understands who she really is. I know this because of who she was on our planet… because of how she served Max to her death. Michael was her fiancée, and an incredible, powerful warrior…a general. He will fight to the death for all of you.

Max--Isabel was and is your sister, and a powerful woman in her own right. You can trust her--even though she made mistakes in the past on our planet, her heart is good and she will never betray you.

You must stand as one. Without pure unity among you all, the tragedies of your past will repeat themselves.

Liz, I do not know why Max’s future self did not reveal these things to you. Perhaps he was convinced that Tess would only stay if he accepted her as the bride he knew she thought she was. But with all that I know about the two of you—your love and your deep connection—I can only say that his plan would have only failed.

And so I leave you with this truth.

Max, there is one final thing I must beg of you. If we do indeed meet again in the future… Should I do something that seems wholly unforgiveable…traitorous even…I beg you not to turn me away.

I ask you in advance for your forgiveness, that you may find it in your heart at that time to give.

You see, I came here today as your enemy, prepared to see you die.

But I am ending it—for reasons far too complicated to explain—once again ready to die for you instead. Because the two of you were always and foremost, my beloved king and queen.

Yours,
M.



Max closed the letter and was silent a long moment. Liz waited for his reply, feeling anxiety grow within her. She doubted very seriously whether Tess would believe the letter—or accept the truth. Tess was far too fixated on Max…too in love with him, in her own bizarre way.

“We’ll show her the letter,” Max said resolutely. “We’ll tell her everything--about me traveling from the future, the granolith…everything.”

“Max, are you sure…”

“Liz, it’s the only way. We have to place our trust in her. It must begin now… as the letter says, we must be unified.”

Liz was silent a moment, considering his words.

And then somehow she knew he was right—that his instincts were correct.

Maybe… we can wait just a few days. Allow it all to sink in with us first, she replied softly.

They needed time to strategize the best way to tell the others… but Liz felt something else surface, and then felt a quick pang of guilt. She knew their lives would always be like this, fraught with danger and complications… but she just wanted a few days to savor what had been birthed between the two of them tonight. She knew it was selfish, but her heart yearned for just this brief time with Max—without all she sensed would come in the wake of the letter.

“Yes, Liz,” he whispered urgently. “We do need this time for just us… before we face this future.”

And he pulled her roughly into her arms. That’s not selfish, sweetheart… just honest. What’s happened tonight is too beautiful not to cherish for just a day or two…And it will make us stronger in facing what lies ahead.

She buried her face against his warm tee-shirt, stroking his back beneath her fingers. Thank you, Max, she breathed softly…whispered it within him.

Suddenly, she felt something joyous and lovely well up within their connection, felt gentle laughter erupt within Max’s heart.

But you’d better watch out in chemistry, he teased softly. I haven’t forgotten my promise.
And Liz had the feeling that she was in for a very interesting day at school tomorrow.



Liz sat in Chemistry, taking detailed notes. She’d felt a burning within her ever since Max had walked in the classroom a few minutes late, taking his seat several rows behind her. This had been going on more than thirty minutes now--she knew he was doing exactly what he’d threatened, and she felt her body responding despite all her efforts to deny it.

There was something almost possessive in the way he kept reaching for their bond… something much hungrier and urgent than their tender lovemaking last evening. After having been so thoroughly intimate, the long night apart from him had driven her slightly crazy—especially with all that they’d learned in the letter. Apparently it had done the exact same thing to Max.

It was as if learning just how thoroughly she really did belong to him--on the very night when they had sealed their love--had created something slightly territorial within Max. She’d been sensing it ever since he walked into the classroom.

She shook her head slightly and determined to focus on the lecture, as she resumed taking notes. Unfortunately that proved difficult, since she kept feeling their bond as it wooed and gentled her, then grew more demanding. It lay just beyond her, shifting, turning…singing to her softly.

What did Max think he was doing to her?

She lowered her head a moment, and her hair fell softly across her face.

Maybe just for a moment…maybe she could let their connection open up just a bit. But only for a moment.

Max stared at the back of Liz’s shiny dark hair, and let his eyes linger down the length of her body. Her now familiar curves were so alluring to him, especially the way her khakis fell low on her hips. He caught sight of a little bare skin where her t-shirt rode up slightly as she leaned over the desk, making copious notes. He imagined kissing her in that exact spot, letting his mouth linger there, just as he had kissed so many other delicate little places on her body.

Note to self…remember her lower back, he thought slyly.

He couldn’t think about chemistry, not with Liz three rows up. Well, at least not the kind of chemistry you learned in class.

Not when all he wanted was to make love to her…right here and now.

He’d joked about how he planned to seduce her in the middle of school, but he hadn’t counted on the burning need he would feel within his body at the mere sight of her.

He shifted slightly in his seat, feeling himself grow a bit aroused. He leaned down over his notebook and pretended to write something—and reached for her yet again, tantalizing her with their connection. He felt it spring to life and then it spiraled toward her, whispering her name.

Oh, Liz…he breathed. Liz please…my love.

He felt the gentlest answer for a moment, knew she almost connected, but then she pushed it away—determined to behave in class.

He called to her again in frustration…and then felt their bond explode, jolts of fire shooting all over his skin.

Liz…all over him, her scent, her taste…. He closed his eyes and drank in the intensity of this explosion between them. And Max was all over her, as well—was caressing her like wildfire, nipping at her skin.

Max, she breathed. I am really totally going to kill you.

He smiled faintly, opening his eyes. He began tracing little notes in the margin of his paper, disguising what was really happening.

I had to keep my promise.

How come I never knew what an absolute devil you can be?

We weren’t lovers before…you’ve changed me now.

Great…I have two classes with my very own intergalactic Don Juan.


He drew her more tightly to him, pulled on the connection. You’re too far away, he breathed huskily. Come closer.

He felt their connection give a thrilling jolt… oh and he was just full of her now. She moved inside of him easily and began gentling him through their bond. In one swift movement, he felt himself enter her, too.

In and out they danced a gentle rhythm.

I’m making love to you,
he whispered across her skin. He watched her shiver slightly in response.

He gazed at her slender backside, saw her shift uncomfortably in her chair. She lowered her head more fully, her thick dark hair forming a curtain around her face—and her shirt raised up a bit again, exposing that same very kissable spot in the small of her back.

Max? She cried out. What are you doing to my back?

Thinking about it… how delicious it looks. Do you feel me?

God, yes…


He sensed her body heating up…that their connection was inflaming her quickly.

Max…we’ve got to stop.

Why?
He teased. You don’t like this?

Shh…
she said.

This is where I always want to be, just like this…all inside you, you within me. He was seducing her with his words, too.

Max Evans, you are so going to pay for this.

Hmm…
he replied lazily.

He saw her raise her hand, and ask for a bathroom pass. Class would be over in just a few minutes—what was she doing?

Where are you going? He asked, as he watched her leave the classroom, quietly closing the door behind her.

To the restroom…and then we’re going to finish what you started.

He laughed. Whatever do you mean, Liz?

I mean, I can’t just sit in class and let you overheat me like some… alien sex machine.
He had to hide his face, as a gentle laugh rolled through him. He saw the teacher glance at him curiously, and he bit his lip.

Well, I can’t, she insisted. He could almost sense her stomping her foot.

I understand, he feigned patience. So what are you going to do?

I’m going to lock myself in the bathroom stall and enjoy this, damn it!


He smiled radiantly at her words. But be forewarned… that’s when the payback comes, she promised threateningly.


Liz leaned against the bathroom wall, her entire body awash in amazing sensations. Max had whispered and teased her to the pinnacle of her desire and beyond, all from his desk in the chemistry classroom. She was trembling softly in the aftermath of his lovemaking, her skin radiant and flushed.

And she had definite plans for Max Evans now.

There’s no one in here, Max…just me, she urged him. She felt his timidity across their connection. He’d made love to her wildly in front of thirty people, but she couldn’t get him to just come in the girls bathroom.

She felt his hunger for her shiver through their bond…then his decisiveness.

Evans, he whispered, I’m coming for you.

Evans… how she loved that he’d just called her that.

She heard the bathroom door open quietly…soft footsteps…felt the connection flare strongly, and then the stall door opened very tentatively.

Beautiful amber eyes stared down at her for the briefest moment, then Max slipped inside the bathroom stall, closing the door quickly behind him and locking it. When he turned back to face Liz, the expression in his eyes was hungry and wild—her breath caught in her throat at the sight of it. This had been incredibly reckless, teasing each other so fully here at school, when such little recourse existed for the two of them. He closed in against her, his eyes narrowing darkly, and pressed her back against the cool tile wall.

Quickly his mouth captured her own, his lips parting fiercely against hers, demanding all of her. This was no gentle taking… no, he was seizing her, compelling her to succomb to him.

They had so little time, and she wanted to pleasure him fully… wanted this to be his moment. The way he’d made love to her through the connection had left her feeling very bold.

She slipped her hand slowly between his thighs, rubbing him gently, and he answered with a deep groan.

Shh…she breathed, beginning a gentle rhythm as she parted his legs more fully with her hand. Tell me how it feels, Max…but not out loud.

It feels like I’m going mad, he gasped huskily, as she rubbed her hands against him through his soft khakis. He was so defined beneath the thin material--she could feel every last bit of him, as she began to massage him more insistently. He pressed his face against the top of her hair, his breathing growing more uneven and erratic.

Helpless…she could feel how utterly helpless he felt… and how almost ashamed of it he was.

Why? She asked gently.

That you have this effect on me… that you can command me so, God Liz…

He reached quickly to unbutton his pants, but she stilled him with her hand, and instead, very gently she began to unbutton them for him.

You’ve been making love to me all through class… now let me do this for you.

Max drew in a shuddering breath at her words.
Liz slowly slid his zipper down, and with this simple act, he cried out again, this time across the connection, kissing her even more insistently. Their passion was raw and demanding now…pressing them closer, as they careened heatedly back and forth between one another across their bond.

She eased his pants open, allowing his warm hips to fall free beneath her hands.

Next, she tenderly peeled his boxers downward, releasing him more fully. He cried her name fiercely through their bond, and a smile formed on her lips. She loved doing this for him, that she was the one pleasuring him--and she loved knowing how strongly it was affecting him.

And she felt a little thrill at the danger of it all—that anyone might discover them.

She traced her fingertips lightly across his abdomen, then his hipbone…down his upper thighs. She was again amazed by how thin he was, how tautly muscled. He was like a thoroughbred…his body so graceful and lean. She finished slipping his boxers away from him, so that he fell freely within her hands. He was incredibly warm and firm as she cupped him within her palms.

Ah…he cried out quietly, as she folded him firmly within her small hands, easing him back and forth, creating a steady rhythm. He reached for her, pressing his hands against her back… but she pushed him softly away.

No, Max, she whispered. Just let me do this for you… you do so much for me, you love me so completely.

He drew his breath in quickly. Okay… but you’re driving me mad, Liz, he whispered, leaning his head back against the wall, his eyes shut tightly.

I know I am… and I like it.

Oh, God, Liz…why did I start this? He moaned softly. How could I have thought I was the one in control when you command every emotion within me…

Max, she whispered gently. Do you think there’s anything I do to you, that you don’t cause within me?

Umm…he answered throatily, and she felt his deep pleasure ricochet through her.

She smiled softly to herself, rubbing him back and forth within her hands, as she intensified her hold on him. He leapt slightly against her touch, a bit of his wetness spilling within her hands. She continued her assault on him, gazing up at him, at the almost pained expression on his face. His eyes were pressed tightly shut and he rocked against her now.

I’m sorry, Max… she laughed tenderly. But you did start this.

He groaned again, this time out loud, just as she heard the bathroom door open. She pressed a finger lightly against his lips, drawing nearer to him now. They grew perfectly still for a moment, and she leaned her cheek against his chest, listening to his frantically beating heart. They heard the sound of running water, then footsteps, and the bathroom door opened and closed again.

Liz began again, letting her hands wander upward along his abdomen, pressing his shirt up as she created a little path against his stomach. She loved the feel of his rippled muscles beneath her fingers, and felt her hand leave a blazing trail of fire along his flushed skin. She began planting kisses on his chest, and drew his nipple softly within her mouth, then lathed it with her tongue.

He gasped and she felt his heart hammering crazily within him.

And he’d grown so hot…it was like his skin was touched by wildfire. She trailed her soft kisses downward, further down onto his smooth stomach, and all the while she kept him firmly within her hands, slipping him back and forth within her palm. He began to gently thrust his hips, meeting the rhythm she’d established.

His eyes fluttered open and met her own, and they had changed color again. Now they were a dark gold, shimmering and mercurial. He begged her as he gazed down into her eyes, pleaded with her to stop this—or finish it--she wasn’t sure which one. But she did know this was almost torturing him now, and that had never been her intention.

She continued trailing her soft kisses along his stomach, and then lower. There was a tiny path of dark hair that began along his lower belly, leading her further downward toward him. She pressed kisses along the light trail, sliding slowly to her knees, until her lips met his lowest part. She drew him quickly within her mouth, easing him in and out in a tender motion. He moaned quietly through their bond, whispering her name. Liz felt him spill slightly, tasted his saltiness within her mouth, and felt a roll of satisfaction within her. He threaded his fingers through her hair violently, pleadingly.

Can’t we just… make love? Here, Liz?

He sounded so utterly desperate.

I need more of you than this, he insisted.
She teased him with her tongue, as she cupped the rest of him within her palm, rolling him gently between her fingers.

God, Liz, he gasped quickly.

She allowed the connection to unfurl to it fullest, tried to meet his unanswered need by allowing him more fully within her. He responded quickly, filling her completely…dancing along her skin…anything to ease his desperate desire for her. She felt him explode all along their bond, racing along her surface, darting in and out…and yet she also sensed it wasn’t enough. He wanted so much more of her.

So she entered him in kind, and felt their souls touch, dance a seductive dance—then quickly they thread together and entwined without hesitation. Max sighed deeply, and she felt his release at their joining within the connection. The two of them were mating again so fully and deeply, and she sensed a full, growing satisfaction within him…his desire finding its completion. And then suddenly, she felt his alienness…awakening a bit more within him…and she felt all that power and heat shoot through their bond.

And she felt alien, too. Very alien…

Oh, and how she liked it.
This was so different than their initial joining, so wild and feral, yet every bit as beautiful.

She wanted to know every dimension of their lovemaking, even this one… she knew his incredible gentleness, and now she saw how untamed he could be. And she sensed that he was a bit frightened by this side of himself, even as she so fully accepted it.

He was scared that something could have begun so playfully within their class, and yet have ended as tempestuously as this. She sensed how utterly vulnerable he felt, the way she was doing the lovemaking, teasing him so…but he also felt completely safe within her hands.

Their bond constricted a bit and she felt their souls intertwine more thoroughly, tighten…he was pulling her toward him spiritually, even as she wouldn’t let him do so with his body. She felt her chest tighten… felt electricity shoot between them.

She glanced up at him, where he leaned against the wall of the bathroom stall, and saw a gentle smile of satisfaction spread across his face. His physical desire was reaching its crescendo beneath her rhythmic touch, but she knew he felt deeply loved by her, by the way she’d joined with him anew.

I’m driving you crazy, too, he smiled.

But of course you are, she whispered softly in reply.

You are my mate, he said reverentially…
All I want is to be joined with you, one with you. His chest rose and fell with his heavy breaths, and she noticed that her own breathing had become quite erratic.

She increased her rhythm, as she took him to the edge of his desire…and then he called her name over and over, pulled her into his arms and whispered her name in her ear, breathed it across their connection…allowed it to become like sunlight along her skin.

Oh my Liz…Liz…Liz…my… lovely Liz… my Zillia, he murmured, as his body shuddered, and roughly he spilled his warmth within her tiny hands. He nestled his face against the top of her hair…so satisfied, so bathed in her love for him. She tipped her face upward and kissed him softly, delicately now, as his labored breathing came slowly under control.

I love you…God, how I love you, Liz, was all he could say, meeting her lips with his own.

Max… she murmured. You amaze me…you’re so incredibly beautiful…your soul…your heart…. She paused a moment, gazing up at him. Your body.

He shivered slightly at her words, and stroked her hair between his fingers.

And they stood there for several long moments, satiated with their desire for one another, embracing their union. This was all either of them had wanted for such a very long time.

And then Liz suddenly pulled away from him, panic rising quickly within her. We’ve got to get to English class, she realized in alarm. We’re going to be really late.

They stared at one another for a brief moment, and then they both began laughing uncontrollably at the ridiculousness of the entire situation. They’d just made love in one class, and finished it off in the girl’s bathroom.

English class would just have to wait.

PART TWENTY THREE

Liz’s hair whipped in the open air of Max’s jeep, the wind tangling it repeatedly across her face, as they sped into the desert. It was a glorious day, all sunshine and deep blue sky. The radio played loudly, but the music was muffled by the sound of the engine and the blowing wind.

Max had been incredibly quiet the whole ride out of town, and every time she glanced sideways at him, he appeared melancholy and thoughtful. But more than that, he hadn’t tried to connect with her since their little interlude earlier in the girl’s restroom. They’d gone straight to English class afterward, and she’d simply glowed all through their poetry analysis.

And Max had clearly been euphoric, erupting into gentle smiles every time she so much as breathed in his direction.

But then she hadn’t seen him for the rest of the day, until he’d picked her up in front of school, just as promised—and his mood had clearly taken a dark turn in the intervening hours. Liz wondered what had happened, but decided not to press him. Instead she simply rode quietly beside him, the music playing loudly. Music was always Max’s solace-- or his celebration-- depending upon his mood. Right now, he was playing Radiohead’s Kid A, and she didn’t think that was a very positive indication as to what was churning in his heart.

And though she was a little concerned about him, Liz couldn’t help feeling absolutely radiant as the fall sunlight warmed her skin, as she rode beside this man she loved with all her being. Suddenly, she remembered the Pattiann Rogers poems they’d studied in class—her words had suddenly seemed much more applicable to Liz’s life than ever before, shot full of glorious appreciation for the universe and its infinite beauty. One poem in particular had struck a chord within her today:

In the entire night sky, in all of the inverted slipped-back-upon-itself almost total emptiness, with its occasional faint clusters…there is not one single star grateful for its own light.

She’d always loved Pattiann Rogers, but her poetry just resonated even more beautifully within Liz today—now that she knew who she really was.

What she really was.

It suddenly seemed she’d spent a small lifetime unaware of so much.

She wondered if Max understood just how much learning about her own alien nature truly pleased her. Liz sighed softly in frustration because she knew Max, and even with as thoroughly bonded as they now were, he probably worried that it frightened her.

But the truth was so very different. She loved this newfound knowledge to the core of her being, because it meant she was like him. It meant that the same energy, the same essence coursed through both their beings-- and after last night, after having become so thoroughly one with Max, she thrilled to know just how alike they really were. She hadn’t thought it possible, but it made her feel even closer to him, to know they were the same.

To know she was his true bride.

Liz smiled softly to herself, as a gentle hum shivered through her body. Zillia… He’d called her that today, during their lovemaking, whispered it like a prayer.

Zan, she breathed softly now within her mind. It sounded so foreign, yet somehow so familiar—as if she’d whispered it hundreds of times before, as if she’d held that name close to her heart like a sacred refuge. Zan… The name of her beloved.

She glanced quickly at Max, and saw his dark hair rifling in the breeze, blown back away from his face. No, nothing about him had ever scared her, had only made her feel so completely safe… protected.

How could it frighten her to be like him? He was so incredibly beautiful—the alien part of him so exotic and lovely—she couldn’t think of anything that could please her more than to be just that.

She peeked at him again. His eyes were unreadable… a bit moody, as he focused them on the road ahead. She reached for him a little across their bond, but the connection just thudded back to her dully. He was shutting down, closing in on himself. She suddenly felt very lonely, and wondered why he had erected this barrier between them.

She placed her hand lightly on his thigh, and he forced a faint smile in return, folding her hand within his own. She felt a little shadow of their bond, but no real connection.

“Max,” she pressed tentatively. “What’s on your mind?”

She pushed a wayward strand of hair out of her eyes, so she could see him better. He chewed his lip a moment, then gave her hand a tight little squeeze, but remained quiet. Finally after a very long moment, he spoke.

“I don’t know where to start, Liz,” he said, glancing at her quickly. “Let’s just talk when we get there.”

“Where’s ‘there’, Max? You didn’t even tell me where we’re going.”

“Well, that’s part of what’s on my mind actually, Liz.” He hesitated briefly, releasing her hand from his. “I’m taking you to the pod chamber.”

Liz felt dread begin within her. She hadn’t been to the cave since that day six months ago. Why did he want to take her there now?



Liz hugged her arms around herself tightly, as they entered the cool pod chamber. Her short-sleeved t-shirt was suddenly not nearly enough, especially after the warm sunshine outside. Max stepped ahead of her, reaching his hand to lead her in. Liz felt a little shiver of something, as her eyes fell on the familiar pods. She hated this place. It had filled her nightmares for months and the dreams had always ended exactly the same-- with Max saying what he'd said that day, and then her running away.

Out of Max’s life forever.

She knew he had no idea how much she despised the cave, and that for her, it had always spelled an insurmountable wall of difference between the two of them—a place of death for the only love she’d ever known.

All her dreams had ended here in one swift instant.

She took Max’s extended hand, and followed him further inside the cave. She had to remember that all her feelings associated with this place were in the past—that now the pod chamber held significance for her own future. This wasn’t just his heritage anymore—it was her own.

And then it really hit her fully. She was an alien, just like them. A hybrid.

Max turned back and stared at her for a moment. “Liz, what is it?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he answered, hesitating. “I thought I felt something from you for a moment.”

Liz remained quiet and walked toward one of the pods. She ran her fingers slowly across its rough surface, and felt a little jolt of energy.

“Nothing, Max,” she whispered, and he quickly stepped toward her.

“Tell me,” he said softly.

She just shook her head, and then looked up into his eyes, feeling suddenly a little irritable with him. She wasn’t even sure exactly why. “You’re the one who’s been quiet the whole ride here, Max.”

He placed his hands tenderly on her shoulders, and she felt all her sudden animosity melt away, as his warm fingers rubbed the back of her neck. He pressed his face against the top of her head, sighing heavily.

“I’m sorry, I just…” he hesitated, staring at the pods. “I have a lot to tell you Liz. Some things happened today.”

“Like what kind of things?” she asked, feeling slightly uneasy.

“They’re not important right now,” he answered thoughtfully, stroking her hair. He was quiet a long moment, and then continued. “I’ve never told you that this place calms me. It’s where I always come when I just need to think things through…and I wanted you to share in that, too.”

“Oh,” Liz replied softly, and when she looked up into his eyes again, she realized he felt vulnerable about this. He was exposing places that he’d kept hidden from her—his feelings about being alien—things he’d been afraid for her to know.

“Liz…” he began, his voice incredibly quiet. “Is this weird to you? I mean… knowing what you do about yourself now?”

“No, Max…its kind of…exciting actually,” she answered, and saw relief flicker in his eyes.

“What about your parents?” He asked. “How do you feel knowing… well, that they must have adopted you?” She saw him flinch at the words, and remembered all his own confused feelings about his relationship with his parents.

“Oh…well you know that is weird, Max. Of course it’s weird, and a little painful, really. And I wonder if they know anything about what I am. I have a lot of questions about them—but not about this,” she said, waving her hand around the cave. “Not about you,” she finished in a whisper.

Their eyes met for a moment, and something passed over Max’s features. It was like a little tension eased out of him, and she realized this had been hard for him, bringing her here today. It was part of what she’d sensed in the car.

Max ran his own hand slowly across the pod in front of them, staring at it introspectively. “This was mine,” he said softly. “I remember it.”

The one she’d gone to instinctively.

And Liz realized that he’d brought her here for many reasons, but most especially because he was showing her something about himself—something hidden. She reached her hand out and ran it slowly across his pod, then their fingers met, touching lightly as they rested there together. She felt a tremendous shiver of electricity just at the touch of his fingertips, as he traced them across her own. The connection began to sing softly in her ear, but she didn’t reach for it yet. It was important that they keep talking first.

“Everything that we know about ourselves is contained in this cave,” he continued in a very quiet voice. “This is your heritage now, too, Liz… and the questions are going to begin growing within you. I wish so much that I was going to have the answers.”


He bowed his head slowly, and she glimpsed for a moment how responsible he felt for all of them—and that he’d now begun to feel that for her--not just as her mate, but also as her leader. She’d never sensed this from Max before, because while she’d been part of his group, and she’d acknowledged his leadership—she’d never been part of the unit. Liz felt something unfamiliar stir within herself, something new--and felt so loved and protected by him.

Liz gazed down at their hands, where they rested together on the surface of the pod, and a question did form in her mind—and she realized he was right—that he wouldn’t have the answer.

“Why isn’t my pod here?” she asked, glancing up at him, and was surprised to see sadness shadow his eyes.

He shook his head slowly, “I don’t know.”

And for the first time, she had a sense of what he’d lived with his whole life—the endless questions about who he really was, churning forever through his mind—and always returning void, without answer.

Until the message from the communicator and until they’d found Tess.

Liz closed her eyes in guilty realization. The very thing Max had wanted his whole life, had been what had driven Liz away from him. The truth he’d so desperately longed for had caused him to lose her—his soulmate. Pain knifed through her heart at the realization, and she felt unbidden tears spring to her eyes.

“Liz?” he asked, cupping her face within his hand. “What is it? What’s upsetting you?”

She closed her eyes, and shook her head. She felt him kiss her lightly on the forehead. “Is it being here?”

“Yes,” She nodded, opening her eyes to meet his own.

“We can leave,” he whispered.

“It’s not what you think, Max,” she replied, feeling the tears begin to stream down her face now.

“Then what?” He asked gently, wiping her tears with his fingertips. “Tell me.”

She shook her head again, chewing on her lip, and finally after a long moment she spoke. “It’s just that I’ve suddenly realized what your whole life has been like, Max,” she responded.


His heart nearly stopped within him. It was what he’d wanted in bringing her here today—at least part of it—but he hadn’t dared to hope that she’d really understand.
But her own questions had already begun to surface, as he’d known they would--and as he’d feared, he didn’t have the answers for her.

“Oh, Liz,” he said softly, pulling her into his arms. He yearned to connect with her--it was roiling like fire within him, but he pressed it aside. Something else was happening between them right now… something crucial.

“I’m sorry, Max,” she murmured. “I’m sorry that I never really understood before.”

“Shh…” he whispered in her ear. “You’re the only person I’ve ever really felt understands me completely. Don’t you know that?”

He felt his t-shirt growing wet against him. She was still crying. He rubbed her back slowly, wondering why she was so upset. Perhaps it was all the intensity of the past day.

“Max, there’s something else I have to tell you,” she said quietly, and pulled back from him.

“Okay,” he answered, nodding encouragingly. But he was quickly unnerved by the intense expression in her dark eyes.

“Do you know why I ran away that day? Why I left after the message from your mother?”

She looked up into his eyes meaningfully. “I mean why I really left?”

“Because of my destiny,” he answered uncertainly. “Because of Tess.”

What was she getting at? He was starting to feel panicked, as if she were about to reveal something he didn’t want to know.

“That’s not why, Max. I would have fought for you anyway.”
His heart began to thunder apprehensively, and he braced himself for her next words.

“I left because of what you said,” she finished and he saw fresh tears pool in her eyes.

What had he said?

He shook his head in confusion. “What do you mean, Liz?”

“You said, ‘it’s just the four of us now.’ You drew a line, and I was on the other side… shut out because I wasn’t like you,” she finished in a heated whisper.

Oh, God. Oh, God. It was all he could think, his heart hammering within his chest. Of course she’d thought he meant just the four of them—and no wonder she’d run away. He couldn’t think of a single reply, his emotions just swirled in confusion.

Somehow bringing her back here today had unlocked all those exact same feelings of abandonment within her. She had to know his heart, what he’d really meant that day.

She pulled away, and walked past him, toward the cave entrance.

She was turning her back on him--again.

“Liz, no!” he cried, feeling terribly frightened. “I’m not letting you walk away from me again.”

And she turned to face him quickly, pain flashing across her features. “Max, I’d never leave you again. Never,” and she paused, looking down a moment. “I’m trying to tell you something really painful, okay?”

“Okay,” he whispered softly.

“I never understood what that message did to you… that you’d waited your whole life for those answers… and then when you got them, they drove the one person you loved the most away from you. I’m so sorry. I am so incredibly sorry, Max.”

He closed his eyes. All he could hear was the rushing of the blood in his ears. He’d devastated her that day with his careless words, and she was apologizing to him. Focus, he had to focus—but the world was spinning beneath his feet.

“You have to believe me when I say this. Okay, Liz?” He began, moving quickly to her side. He took both of her hands in his own. “When I said that it was just the four of us, I meant…” His voice trailed off.

What had he meant? What else could he have possibly meant, other than what she’d thought. He ran his hand shakily through his hair, grasping for the answer. Why did it feel so elusive? And she was just staring up at him, her beautiful open eyes needing an answer so badly.

And suddenly he remembered exactly what he’d felt in that moment, as the memory came crashing back upon him.

“Liz…I wasn’t thinking of Tess.” His voice was so quiet. “I was excluding her… I didn’t consider her part of our group.” He’d never thought about it until just now, but it was the truth. He’d been including Liz and excluding Tess.

Liz gasped softly, her hand covering her mouth, and simply stared at him for one, long eternal moment.

Oh, please let her believe me, he thought.

Slowly she stepped toward him again, and took his hands more firmly within both of her own. She gazed up at him, her dark eyes swimming with countless emotions.

And then the connection rapidly unfurled between them, exploding wide open in no time at all—she’d reached for it with more intensity than he’d ever known. She had catapulted barriers, rapidly dissolved distances between them-- because in one single instant, she’d willed herself to be completely joined with him.

She believed him. Wholeheartedly and fully, she knew he’d told her the truth, and something had changed within their bond forever.

The brightest sunlight washed over him, spun out within him… and his chest began instantly to burn. Not just his chest, but also his hands, his arms…and his face became flushed. Their bond was different this time—the connection changed each and every instance when they joined, it was so mercurial and shifting.

Oh, his Liz… she was darting in and out of him, dancing along their connection, twirling and beckoning him like a tiny ballerina. She teased and nipped along his skin, she pirouetted within his mind. Her heart was exploding with joy…and then suddenly their bond spun in a totally different direction, and unexpectedly she just settled quietly within him.

The connection grew incredibly hushed and gentle.

Max, she whispered through their bond.

He pulled her into his arms and breathed her in, buried his face in her hair. She smelled like the desert wind, all mixed with sunlight and blue sky. He inhaled her…the scent of her, the fire of his connection with her.

He pulled away from her so that he could look into her eyes. They were like two delicious pools of chocolate, and shone with such love for him, that his heart shuddered.

And they stared at one another for moments, without speaking at all. Totally hushed and intimate. He caressed her cheek softly below his thumb, and her skin was like creamy silk to his touch.

And then her soul sidled up to his very gently, and they began caressing one another like a whisper. His soul to hers…back and forth…and in the most delicate way, they joined.

Their uneven breaths fell into a single quiet rhythm, breath upon breath, as their souls knit tightly together.
He felt her deep contentment, which completely matched his own.

I want to stay like this forever, Liz. God, I swear it.

Me, too, Max.

Why can’t I get enough of this… of our connection? It never ends for me, how much I need this.


She was quiet a long moment, and nestled her face against his chest, stroking his back lightly beneath her fingers. Her touch sent little sparks of heat through his body.

I think its how our people make love, Max. I think it’s why we need it so much.

Our people,
he whispered.

Yes…

You’re like me, Liz. You'll never know what that does to me.


His pleasure shot across their bond, enveloping them both. And they stood there quietly for eternal moments, not speaking.



Liz dangled her feet off the rocks outside the pod chamber, looking out over the desert floor. They’d been sitting there, holding hands and watching the sunset for a long time, neither speaking. He felt Liz’s growing concern about his day—about what had happened to upset him earlier. But he wasn’t ready for this warm thrumming of their connection to cool. Because when he did tell her what had happened at school, it was going to change things—it was going to end this honeymoon they’d been on—at least for a while.

What is it, Max? She asked, turning to him. Concern instantly darkened her eyes.

You weren’t supposed to hear those thoughts, he groaned.

She smiled faintly, If we’re connected, Max, I’m just all in there. Sorry.

I think you’re all in there all the time, sweetheart. Not just when we’re connected.

So what happened today?
she asked.

He stared across the desert, thinking for a long moment. How was he going to tell her? There was no other way, than to simply tell the truth.

“Tess,” he finally answered. “Tess happened today.”



posted on 2-Nov-2001 4:54:32 PM

PART TWENTY FOUR

“I think I really screwed up, Liz,” he confessed, glancing sideways at her.

“What do you mean, Max?” She asked apprehensively.

He could only close his eyes, and wish it had all played out so differently—could only long to protect Liz from what he was about to say.

“Protect me from what, Max?” He could hear the fear in her voice now, and her hand had begun to tremble slightly within his own. “Please just tell me,” she pleaded.

She knew, Liz. About us… he answered in a hushed voice. “I don’t know how, but she just knew,” he said, running a tired hand across his eyes.

“What did she say?” Liz asked, as she turned toward him more fully where they sat together on the rocks.

“Well, she kept staring at me all through last period with this strange expression on her face. Then after class, she came over to me and asked if I wanted to study together this afternoon, and I said that I couldn’t.”

“Because you were meeting me,” Liz finished quietly.

“But I didn’t tell her that, Liz,” he looked at her meaningfully. “I didn’t—but she just looked at me with this awful expression and said, ‘you’re back with her, aren’t you?’”

“And what did you say?” Liz asked, her voice tense.

Max groaned. How could he have been so stupid? Why hadn’t he just lied?

You told her….

He nodded silently, and Liz drew in a quick, gasping breath.

Oh, Max. No. She winced at the awful realization.

“She said she couldn’t keep going on like this,” he continued. “Trying to convince me of my destiny if I didn’t want to see it.”

Max gazed at Liz, and couldn’t believe the fear he saw flickering in her eyes.

“She’s going to leave, Max,” she said, and he noticed that all the color had quickly drained from her face.
“No,” he shook his head firmly. “I won’t believe that… she’s just upset right now.”

“Did you tell her that we need to talk? That there are things we want to tell her?”

Max grew silent for a moment, and knew this would be the hardest part to share with Liz—the part that would unsettle her the most about their future.

“She said she didn’t care—didn’t want to hear it, and that she was done with all of us.”

Liz drew a sharp breath in and Max felt a wave of pain hit him squarely in the chest. Everything Liz had been through—all that she’d been willing to suffer by pushing him toward Tess—had just been undone. None of it had served any purpose, because of his own stupid actions.

Max, you can’t blame yourself. She reassured him softly, placing her hand on his thigh. He stared at it a moment, and noticed her wedding ring. She was his wife—in multiple lifetimes now—not Tess. Why should he have had to lie? He traced his finger along the gold band. He hadn’t wanted to deny what Liz was to him any longer, especially not now.

“I just don’t see how she knew,” she said softly.

“Liz, I think somehow… well, that she knew just by looking at me,” he whispered meaningfully.

He met her eyes, feeling suddenly very vulnerable…almost shy.

I think somehow… maybe I look different because of… and his voice trailed off. How could he suddenly feel so awkward with this woman he’d been so intimate with?

What do you mean, Max? She pressed him gently, squeezing his hand within her own.

Do you think what happened between us might be visible somehow? He asked softly.

Liz shivered at his words, and studied his face for a long moment. Then she reached her hand to his cheek, and stroked it lightly beneath her palm. He felt her soothing his very soul, just with her quiet touch. Then she dropped her eyes a moment, and he sensed her own sudden shyness.

I don’t know, she finally whispered. I know that I am changed…profoundly changed by you…by this. Maybe it is evident.

We’ve mated Liz…something totally alien. Maybe Tess sensed it somehow.

Liz’s eyes met his for one long moment, her face flushing slightly, and he felt their connection leap a bit, as fire rippled between them. Yes, this had changed them at the deepest level—and she was literally part of him now, why shouldn’t he look different…transformed somehow?

“Or maybe it was just the fact that I went around grinning like a complete idiot all day,” he lamented. “I should have been more careful.”

Tremendous remorse welled up within him, and he felt it ricochet through their bond, then shoot back toward him.

She stroked her fingers lightly across his cheek, and his skin grew hot beneath her touch.

Healing… the slightest trace of healing had flowed from her. His heart shifted a bit within him, and all the self-accusation dissipated from within his soul.

“You know, Max, we’ve never had a really good handle on what Tess’s abilities even are—maybe she was able to read your mind or something.”

“Maybe,” he replied and bowed his head somberly. “But whatever the reason, she does know.” He sighed heavily. “And that’s not all Liz—there’s more.”

“What else?” He could hear her apprehension, could feel it building within her.

“She told me that I’d just used her… that I’d only come running to her when you’d slept with Kyle… that I was stupid to go back to you after what you’d done… oh it was endless the things she said.”

He glanced at Liz, and saw anger flash in her dark eyes. “But the one recurring theme was that I’d lead her on this past week,”

There was silence for a long moment, and Max sensed fury growing within Liz, begin rumbling through their bond a bit.

“Did you?” Liz’s voice was tense.

“Liz!” he cried, “How can you even ask me that?”

“Well…you did think I’d slept with Kyle,” she answered in a small voice.

“I didn’t do anything…she was a friend to me that night—that was it.”

He suddenly felt his own anger begin to churn inside. This was what Tess always did to them—she made them begin to doubt one another, question everything.

Liz stood quickly and began pacing. Another wave of emotions hit him… unbearable heartache, fear of losing him…anxiety about their future.

And then intense, roiling anger slammed him full force-- anger that he knew had been building within Liz for months now. He watched her pace, and saw that her hands were shaking slightly, as she balled them into tight little fists. Finally, she stopped just beside where he sat, and gazed down at him, her eyes absolutely blazing with the emotions he felt simmering through her.

“It’s so completely unfair!” she shouted, and the words echoed across the desert below them. “Excuse me, but let me just add that it’s completely fucking unfair!”

He flinched because he didn’t think he’d ever heard Liz swear like that—and then he had the bizarre urge to laugh, even with as upset as they both were.

He’d seen Liz really angry before, but nothing like this—and he’d certainly not been privy to exactly how her inner terrain felt at those times. This was scalding, white hot rage that he suspected she’d needed to release for many months now. These were the things she’d felt ever since the day they’d parted six months ago, and then the emotions had only escalated with the advent of his future self. She’d been through so much, and had carried such heavy burdens on her small shoulders.

His burdens. She’d borne every one of them.

His supposed destiny had wrought endless heartache within her.

She squatted beside him on the rock. “Don’t you think it’s unfair, Max? Don’t you?” she pressed, her voice raw with emotion. “All we’ve ever wanted was to love each other, be together…and Tess just keeps raising up, over and over like some many headed hydra.”

He reached a soothing hand to her, stroking it the length of her arm.

Shh… he whispered across her skin. Shh…sweetheart.

He saw her shiver a little in response.

How can this ever work out, Max? It’s like it always has to end the same place—with Tess hurt and leaving…and that means she’ll end up betraying…. Her voice faded, suddenly small and hopeless. “You, Max. She’ll betray you.”

“Not just me, Liz. All of us.”

“But it is you, Max—don’t you see? And that’s what breaks my heart the most,” she finished, her voice cracking slightly.

Then he realized that she wasn’t just upset at the unfairness of the situation, but that it killed her to think of Tess betraying him, hurting him in any way. He understood that emotion very well, because he wanted nothing more than to shield her from all this pain.

“Liz, we’re going to talk to her. I believe Marco’s letter—that if she understands her true destiny it will change things. It’s just that right now she doesn’t know.”

“What if she leaves before we can get through to her? What if she won’t listen?”

She sat beside him again and stared into his eyes. He wanted to reassure her, calm her heart, but he wasn’t totally convinced that Tess would listen, either.

“We have to believe that she will,” he said firmly.

He slipped his arm around Liz’s shoulders—her skin had grown so cool from the dusk desert air around them. Their bond, which was normally such a source of warmth, had also cooled significantly. He could barely feel her anymore at all, and it left him feeling lonely for her. He pulled her close against him, nestling his face in her silky hair.

“Liz, we’ll go to her tonight. Once we leave, okay?” he breathed against her. “Let’s stay strong…remember what we’re fighting for,” he finished softly.

Just remember that I love you…that you’ll always be safe in my arms. He began softly releasing strength into her, forging her more closely to himself. They had to be united—even Marco had said that—and it applied to the two of them as well, not just the group.

He pulled her toward him across their connection. Come closer, sweetheart…closer, he whispered. And he felt her settle deeply within him, more near than he’d even hoped. It was like she’d curled up right inside of him, and he sighed, savoring it.

And suddenly, he really did believe they could persuade Tess of the truth.


Tess sat glumly on the sofa beside Kyle, watching television. She wasn’t watching really, just staring, but Kyle hadn’t seemed to notice. It had made her feel just a little bit better when she’d walked in the Valentis’ house late that afternoon, and he’d greeted her with his usual ridiculous jokes. He’d actually made her laugh a few times, and she’d reflected sadly that he really was the only friend she had in Roswell.

Why should she stay in this boring town? There were so many places where she could make a fresh start, and at least there’d be more to do than in Roswell, New Mexico.

Like Los Angeles.

She’d been there once with Nasedo, and had thought she might want to live there one day. She’d skated on the Santa Monica pier of all things. Who’d have thought that Tess Harding could actually do something so carefree--and human—as just roller-skate? Nasedo had shaken his head in bewilderment when he’d discovered her that day.

But it wasn’t that she’d expected a life full of moments like that—it had been a rarity, the ocean breeze blowing her hair back, and the taste of the salty air on her tongue…

Kyle changed the station abruptly, ending her little reverie. Just as well. She had no business dreaming about unrealistic things like that day in Santa Monica--she needed to come up with a plan because her life in Roswell wasn’t working anymore.

She couldn’t go on loving Max like this, because it was slowly tearing her apart.

Why did she always feel so incredibly drawn to him? It was undeniable—she was compelled to him, knew she was meant to be by his side.

She didn’t really remember any details of their former life together, or their love. She only really remembered one thing—that she’d been willing to die for him a thousand times over. And how could you possibly feel that for someone if you hadn’t loved them? If you hadn’t been sworn to them in every possible way?

She shook her head slightly, trying to clear it.

Damn Max Evans. He just didn’t get it, and she was tired of trying to force him to see the truth. And while she was at it, damn Liz Parker, too.

She was the real problem.

Why had it taken Nasedo so long to find Max? If they’d just gotten to Roswell sooner, then Liz wouldn’t have displaced her--Max would have known who she really was.

He would have loved her then, but now… it was just too late.


Max turned the jeep down the Valentis’ street, and Liz felt her stomach grow queasy. There was no way around it—this wasn’t going to be pleasant. Not for Max, not for Tess—and definitely not for her. She felt like she was about to face her greatest demon, and wondered if she was really strong enough to come out on the other side. Her heart beat quickly within her at the thought, and her palms grew slightly sweaty.

Max had been reassuring her the whole way back into town. Not with words necessarily, but with his heart. He’d refused to break their connection when they’d left the cave, and had quietly imparted strength to her for the entire drive here. He’d whispered her name, emblazoned her soul with his caresses, and she’d felt enveloped by peace for most of the way. Until the last few blocks, and now her resolve was beginning to fail her.

“Max, we’ve got to break this before we see her,” she reminded him.

He smiled at her softly in the darkness. “I know,” he admitted. “I just wanted to stay like this as long as we could.”

She slowly released him, feeling the energy dim between them, but he pulled her back for one last moment. I love you, Liz. Just remember that tonight, no matter what happens.

And then he’d quickly made the break, leaving a steady, golden hum resonating through her whole body.

He pulled the jeep alongside the curb, and shut the engine off. Liz drew in a strengthening breath, and then released it heavily.

“Here we go,” he said resolutely. “You ready?”

“As ready as I’m going to be,” she replied, opening the car door.

As she stepped onto the Valentis’ dew-soaked lawn, she thought of the old clichéd line from Nietzsche… When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back at you.

In this case, the abyss had blonde hair, blue eyes, and a ridiculously perfect body—and the abyss wanted the love of her life as its own.

PART TWENTY FIVE

As soon as Kyle left them alone in the living room, Tess took a seat across from Max and Liz, who were nestled closely together on the Valentis’ sofa. She stared down at the floor, and knew she’d do anything to avoid that shining look she saw reflected in both their eyes. Now she was sure of what she’d merely suspected earlier this afternoon—that they’d crossed some boundary together.

Both of them literally glowed. Not just the happily-ever-after human kind of glowing—no, this was an alien radiance… an energy. She’d been fairly sure she’d seen it on Max during class, and now after glimpsing Liz, she was certain of her earlier suspicions. But it went beyond that. Tess also observed how the two of them now echoed and mirrored one another in every way--they had slipped into absolute completion.

It was obvious that they’d joined.

Nasedo had told her about the alien way of mating… joining souls together permanenetly. It wasn’t just sex—it was something much more spiritual, reserved for a lifemate.

And she knew that Liz hadn’t slept with Kyle at all. She’d known that earlier today, but she’d just wanted to hurt Max. No, it was absolutely evident who Liz Parker had slept with, and it certainly wasn’t Kyle.

“Tess, are you listening to me?” Max’s soft voice interrupted her thoughts.

She glanced up at him quickly, and saw something strange in his golden eyes—and then she glanced at Liz, and was surprised to see genuine worry shadowing her features.

What were they so worried about? Why should they care what she thought about their being together? No, this didn’t make any sense at all.

“Look, I don’t know why you feel like you need my permission or whatever,” she began. “It’s not like that’s ever stopped you before, Max.”

“Tess, you’re important to us,” Max insisted. “It’s what we’re trying to tell you.”

“Yeah, right.” Tess rolled her eyes. “None of you would be disappointed if I left for home tomorrow… or at least left Roswell forever.”

Liz shook her head quickly. “No, Tess, see you can’t leave. We all really need you…you’re critical to,” Liz hesitated. “You’re critical to everything,” she finally finished, meeting Tess’s gaze intently.

“Everything?” Tess asked, raising an eyebrow. “And by everything, you would mean…to my former husband—the one you’ve stolen from me?” She was raising her voice now. “Or just this planet in general? Or maybe—just maybe—you mean to Max’s destiny?”

Tess couldn’t believe the anger she was starting to feel, as all the frustration of the past months began to erupt within her. Liz Parker had taken the one man she’d ever loved—the man she belonged with—and had done so permanently by bonding with him. She stood and began pacing in front of them both--and was about to let them know exactly what they could do with destiny--when Max reached out and captured her wrist gently within his hand.

“Tess, please,” he urged. “We’ve got some things to tell you. Could you just calm down and hear us out?”

Tess stared down at him, and was unnerved by the expression in his dark eyes. She saw fire in them—as if there were something he passionately wanted her to know. What could he possibly have to say to her, when he was so thoroughly bound to Liz?

“It’s very important,” he finished softly.
As she gazed down at Max, she had the feeling that his next words were about to change her life profoundly—and she felt her anger slowly dissipate.




Tess had listened to their incredible story for more than thirty minutes, just sitting quietly with her eyes focused on the floor in front of her. Max didn’t know why she kept avoiding eye contact with them so much, but he didn’t stop to question it. Periodically, at one of the more outrageous junctures in the story, her water blue eyes would quickly raise, flashing with some unnamable emotion. She asked a few questions, logistical things like where they had found the note… but mostly she just listened. Although it bothered Max that he couldn’t judge her reaction, he and Liz still pressed ahead, alternately sharing different pieces of the story.

When they finished, Tess slowly raised her eyes to meet his, and stared at him for a long, unreadable moment. But then Max felt his breath catch in his throat when she began to laugh sarcastically.

“Do you really think I’m going to believe such a ridiculous load of crap?” Tess began. “I mean, my God, how stupid do you think I am? But I do have to hand it to you, Liz,” she continued. “At least you came up with a truly elaborate scheme to get Max.”

Max felt familiar anger begin to surge within him.

Damn, Tess. She was not going to hurt Liz any more.

He was about to tell her as much, but before he could reply, Liz sprang angrily to her feet.

“Do you have any idea--I mean the slightest inkling-- of what I’ve been through in the past six months, Tess?” Liz began in a tight voice.

Tess’s mouth opened slightly, and Max could see she was taken aback by Liz’s strong outburst.

“I mean do you, Tess? Max and I were happy before you showed up… we were in love,” Liz continued heatedly, her voice beginning to shake with rage. “Then you came into our lives, and if you’ll recall, I stepped aside so that Max could follow his destiny. With you.”

Tess shifted uncomfortably in her seat, and Liz stopped right in front of her, gazing down with fiery eyes.

“Then, just last week I came to you—after Future Max appeared—and I tried to help you,” Liz’s voice caught in her throat. “Help you get Max. The man that I loved more than anything in the world…because I believed it was your destiny,”

Liz’s voice grew hushed, yet was full of quiet anger, and Max could see tears shimmering in her eyes. “Max’s destiny.”

“Liz, look…” Tess began quietly.

“No, Tess. Youlook,” Liz spat. “You can either believe what we’re saying or not, that’s your choice.”

Liz turned to face him. “Max, you do whatever you need to do here, but I don’t have anything more to say.” Liz moved quickly to the front door, opening it to leave, then hesitated a moment.

“You know, Tess, we’re saying we need you,” she paused, staring at Tess meaningfully, and Max saw her eyes flare with raw emotion. “That Max needs you. And if that’s not enough for you, well that’s not my problem anymore.”

With that, Liz spun on her heel and left the Valentis’ house. Max chewed on his lip for a moment, then met Tess’s stunned gaze. Her cheeks had flushed crimson during the course of Liz’s tirade, and he wondered what was going on in her mind.

“Wow,” she finally spoke. “I didn’t know Liz Parker had that in her,” she laughed quietly. And he could see that somehow Liz had turned the tide with Tess—just by being honest and real.

He smiled thoughtfully. “I think there’s a lot you don’t know about Liz.”

Tess raised her eyebrow in mock surprise. “Yeah, I kinda get that idea.”

Then they both fell quiet again, and Max wasn’t sure what to say next. He sighed heavily, reaching desperately within his mind for a plan. Liz had been right in leaving the two of them alone now—there was too much history and animosity between Tess and Liz for this to work otherwise.

“Look, Max… this is all really overwhelming,” Tess began. “And, frankly, I don’t know what to think.”

“I’m sure,” he replied, shaking his head.

“Could I see Marco’s letter?” Tess asked tentatively, and he realized they hadn’t even thought to simply show it to her.

He reached inside his jacket, and handed it to her. She opened it slowly, and an idea formed in his mind—a way to let her know that they really did want to trust her.

“Why don’t you just keep that tonight, okay?” he said.

“Are you sure?” Tess’s eyes widened in surprise. “Aren’t you worried that I’d destroy it or something?”

“No,” Max shook his head firmly. “I trust you. But none of the others have seen it yet, so be really careful.”

“You haven’t shown this to Michael?” she asked, her voice genuinely surprised. “Or Isabel?”

“No, and this is going to be just as hard on both of them for different reasons, so I’d appreciate your keeping it to yourself for now.”

Tess carefully folded the letter. “Sure, but I guess I wonder why you came to me first.”

“Because you were the most important one, Tess. I believe that this really is your destiny…. That we all really need you.” His voice trailed off, and he gazed down at his hands for a long moment. “That I need you,” he finished meaningfully.

And when he looked at Tess again, he was shocked to see tears pooling in her eyes. She didn’t speak, just nodded softly, staring down at the envelope. She clearly needed to be alone now.

“Well, I should go check on Liz,” he said, standing. “I guess we’ll just…talk to you tomorrow then.”

Tess nodded silently again, and he sensed she didn’t want him to know just how vulnerable she was feeling.
He left the Valenti house, and closed the door quietly behind him. When he did, he felt like they had all turned an important corner—as if some invisible battle had been waged and won this night.



Tess tossed and turned in her bed, sleep completely eluding her. She couldn’t think of anything except the letter they’d shown her from this protector—someone Nasedo had never once mentioned. She’d sat in bed , turning the so-called “facts” over in her mind for hours. She just couldn’t quite trust Max—and especially not Liz—about this. There were too many reasons they might have concocted the letter.

Like what? A small voice questioned. Why did they need her to stay at all, if they wanted to be together? Why not just ignore her, and damn the consequences… no, something told her they hadn’t faked the letter. But it didn’t mean she believed its contents either, not when they disputed everything Nasedo had ever told her.

So, she sat in the dark and pondered everything that they’d told her tonight. And then she tried memory retrieval…tried to tap into the only memories she had of Max, but she couldn’t turn up anything new, only the one recurring vision.

She was standing beside a man—she couldn’t make any features out, just impressions—and she knew that he meant everything to her, that she’d only ever belonged by his side. She closed her eyes, sighing heavily. Nothing new… and the emotion felt the same as it always did—like she was bound to this man in countless, indecipherable ways. Deep ways.

She pressed again…pushing inward to the vision, desperate for a breakthrough. She reached more forcefully than she’d ever done before—and then something happened. The vision changed. Another figure appeared beside them, with totally opaque, indistinguishable features—yet the emotion was undeniably strong. Tess felt incredible love well within her at the image, and surprising tears sprang to her eyes as she pulled the memory forward. The figure took the vague shape of a woman. A sister… a best friend.

Hot tears streamed down Tess’s face now, staining her cheeks. This feeling—she’d yearned her whole life for a friend like this. The love just swirled around her, enveloping her, and she knew this friend’s heart--such gentleness of spirit, such kindness—yet possessing strength like a warrior. The figure turned slowly toward her, nothing more than a vapor and Tess reached toward it—she had to see this woman’s face, had to know her identity.

The shrouded image grew less opaque, as the shadows fell away and Tess heard the distant echo of a hauntingly familiar name…

Zillia.

Then the mist parted--and Tess saw Liz Parker’s face, smiling at her—with radiant and open eyes.

Tess knew in that instant…. Liz had been her beloved friend. Her queen.

And she knew that her life was never going to be the same again.

PART TWENTY SIX


Liz hummed happily to herself as she filled her coffee cup. She never minded working on Saturday mornings because she liked starting her day when so many other people were still lolling in bed. She loved the way the early morning sunlight played across the café floor, and the expectant hush that hovered over the entire place. In just a few minutes, the breakfast crowd would begin arriving, and she and Maria would swing into action. But for now, it was just Liz and the quiet restaurant, everything still shiny and clean, and as she sipped her coffee, somehow she just knew this would be a perfect day.

Liz slipped onto one of the barstools, propping her elbows on the counter, and opened the Saturday newspaper.

Why should she think this would be a perfect day? She wondered. Given the way their conversation had gone with Tess, she had every reason to expect a potentially disastrous day. But Max had been surprisingly optimistic when he’d left the Valentis, and seemed to think everything might work out okay.

Even though Liz had berated herself for getting so angry during their conversation last night, Max had reassured her as soon as he’d climbed in the jeep. He really felt that she’d handled Tess in precisely the right way—and that somehow Liz’s honesty had turned the tide with her.

We’ll see, Liz thought, taking another sip of coffee. The front door opened and she glanced up to see Maria enter the café.

“Hello, my little lovebird,” Maria beamed, waltzing toward her.

Liz smiled slowly in response. “And how exactly did I get that title?” she asked, turning on the stool to face her.

“Oh, I’d say because every time I saw you or Max yesterday, you were both totally beaming,” Maria gloated, taking the seat beside her. “Yeah, I think that’s the best way to put it.”

“Oh,” Liz said shyly, awareness dawning. “We were that obvious, huh?” She laughed, dropping her gaze back to the open newspaper.

“I’d say so, chica,” Maria replied. “Especially the one formerly known as Gloomy Max.”

“Gloomy Max?” Liz raised her eyebrows questioningly.

“Oh, you know,” Maria continued. “The guy I’ve had to deal with for the last week. Correction—the past six months. Nope, Gloomy Max is gone, and now we have Euphoric Max.”

Liz laughed, blushing slightly. It thrilled her knowing that she’d made Max so happy that even their friends could see it. But of course, his eyes were always so revealing—such a barometer of his emotions.

Like the night he’d found her in bed with Kyle. God, she never wanted to see him hurt like that again.

“I can’t say I’ll miss Gloomy Max myself,” Liz replied quietly.

“So are you going to spill?” Maria pressed, stepping behind the counter for a coffee cup.

Liz suddenly felt her face flush much more deeply. She’d known Maria would press her for information, but suddenly she felt very exposed by the direction of their conversation. She wasn’t really prepared to share the intimate details of what had happened with Max yet. But Maria had such a way of simply pulling things out of her—of being able to thoroughly read her.

“Well, we talked… and worked things out,” Liz’s voice trailed off. She didn’t know exactly what to say next. “And, well,” she stalled, realizing that she was practically stammering.

She glanced briefly at Maria, who had frozen in the middle of pouring her coffee. “Oh. My. God.” Maria’s mouth fell open.

“What?” Liz asked.

“You guys did it, didn’t you?”

“Maria…” Liz coughed, wrinkling her eyebrows together.

“You did. That’s why this look on your face… On Max’s face. Oh my God. You totally did it,” Maria gasped.

Liz stood, distancing herself from Maria, and began prepping silverware. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. We got back together, that’s all.”

“Lizzie. This is me,” Maria said, stepping toward her.
“Something big happened between the two of you, didn’t it?”

Now that was an understatement.

But admitting to their physical lovemaking seemed almost superficial compared to all that Liz knew had actually transpired with Max. There was so much she could never tell Maria—sacred things reserved only for Max and herself.

Liz stared down at her hands, and felt them begin to tremble. Maria was ruthless and Liz knew she’d never get away with hiding their lovemaking. She slowly met Maria’s questioning gaze.

“A lot happened Maria.”

“Uh, huh,” Maria answered, planting her hands on her hips. “And that’s why you are like bright red right now.”

“We made love,” Liz finally admitted in a quiet voice, sighing in heavy resignation. And then she couldn’t help but break into a giddy smile.

“I knew it!” Maria screamed. “I can’t believe it took you like two days to even tell me.”

“Well, I wasn’t exactly ready to face the Spanish inquisition about it, okay? It was really… personal.”

Maria grabbed her by the shoulders. “So, tell me what is alien sex like? You think its like human sex? Or better?” Maria began firing off questions more quickly than Liz could even follow. “Were there flashes? Did you see the home planet?”

“Maria!” Liz nearly shouted, swatting her arm, and glancing around the restaurant. “My dad’s coming downstairs any minute.”

“Okay, but I need details, babe,” Maria continued more quietly. “Lots and lots of details.”

Liz thought a long moment, and wondered how she could even begin to share all that had happened in the past week. It seemed impossible to summarize the new bond she shared with Max—the way they’d joined so deeply. She glanced at her friend’s expectant face, and thought a long moment.

She didn’t want to expose the most intimate things at all, yet she did want to let Maria know what it had meant to her--how it had transformed her forever.

And one word suddenly rang through her mind very clearly.

“Beautiful,” she whispered. “It was more beautiful than anything I could ever have dreamed in my heart, Maria.”

Liz was surprised to see tears spring to Maria’s eyes, and then remembered guiltily her uncertain relationship with Michael.

“Was it different?” Maria questioned softly. “I mean, than if he was… human?”

Liz nodded silently for a moment, and watched Maria’s eyes widen in amazement. “The connection is just… very intense,” she answered.

“Oh, God. I knew it,” Maria stomped. “See… Michael Guerin has ruined me for anyone else. If he doesn’t get his crap together I’ll spend my whole life wondering what I missed out on.”

“Maria,” Liz soothed. “Things with Michael are going to work out. You’ve just got to give it time.”

“Yeah, right,” she replied sarcastically.

The bell on the door chimed, signaling their first customer, and the two of them stepped apart quickly.

“Well, speak of the devil,” Maria sang, a smug look of satisfaction on her face, as Max entered the restaurant. Liz glanced quickly in his direction and felt her face flush anew.

And felt completely guilty that he’d walked in on her discussing their lovemaking.

“Max,” she coughed, stepping quickly toward him.

“Hi,” he replied warmly, kissing her on the forehead. “I’m on the way to work, but I just had to see you for a minute.”

Liz beamed up at him, their eyes meeting for a moment, and it seemed like the rest of the world might absolutely fade away around them. “I’m glad,” she whispered, kissing him softly on the mouth.

“Uh, excuse me, but one thing I haven’t missed is the constant embarrassment of just being around the two of you,” Maria quipped.

Max smiled gently. “We’ll try to be disciplined,” he called in Maria’s direction, but his gaze never left Liz.

“Yeah, right,” Liz whispered, dropping her eyes coyly. “Like in Chemistry yesterday?”

“Well, if you want a repeat right now,” Max laughed. “We could try some kind of experiment while you wait tables this morning.”

“No, Max, I don’t think so,” Liz smiled.

He kissed her again, whispering in her ear. “Well just remember the offer stands if you get bored later. I’m right across the street.”

“Don’t you recall how yesterday’s experiment ended?” she asked, punching him playfully on the arm.

Max kissed her again, this time nipping her ear. “That’s the problem. I do remember.”

Liz shook her head firmly. “You’ve got to get to work and so do I,” she reminded him, walking him toward the door.
“See, you’re always so practical.”

“Oh, and you’re not?” Liz laughed, opening the door for him.

“Me?” he asked playfully. “Never.”

“Bye, Max,” she answered.

“I’ll call you later,” he promised. “Bye, Maria!” he called over his shoulder.

“Bye, Euphoric Max!”

“Euphoric Max?” he asked, raising a questioning eyebrow.

“Long story,” Liz mumbled, nearly pushing him out the door.

“I'll bet,” he laughed as he walked away, casting one last beaming smile in her direction.



The restaurant had rapidly filled with patrons, and now that eleven a.m. had arrived, things were positively bustling. Liz had to amend her earlier reverie--this was not her favorite thing to do on a Saturday. She could think of many better ways to spend her morning than managing their most demanding weekly crowd. Every direction she turned, it seemed that someone was raising a hand, needing just one more bit of cream, one more cup of coffee.

She hurried toward the order window, followed closely by Maria.

“Okay, so table five. What’s the deal there?” Maria asked.

“You mean the tyrant?”

“Yes, that’s exactly who I mean. He’s unhappy that the eggs came on top of the corned beef hash… and that they’re too runny. He wanted pineapple juice, not orange,” Maria ranted. “Hello? How many needs can one customer possibly generate?”

“You do realize that the tyrant has convoluted and very specific needs designed for only one purpose?” Liz asked, grabbing her order, as she pushed past Maria. “To get attention.”

“Yeah, right,” Maria groaned and grabbed a glass of pineapple juice.

“So blow him off,” Liz finished, heading back toward the busy tables.

Then she spotted one new customer who’d just taken a seat near the window, and her heart began beating wildly.

Tess.

I cannot deal with this right now,
Liz thought, as she delivered table number nine’s order, hardly speaking to them at all.

You don’t have a choice, a small voice reminded her. Because of who you are, you no longer have the luxury of certain choices… .

Liz groaned and headed toward Tess, who stared thoughtfully down at her menu.

“Hi,” Liz began as she approached her table. She looked up quickly, her expression unreadable.

“You here for breakfast?” Liz continued, aware that her voice sounded far too peppy and cheerleader-like. God, rein it in, Parker.

“Not actually.” Tess closed the menu, and handed it to her. “Look, I can see you’re really busy, so I’ll just… get right to the point.”

“Okay,” Liz nodded encouragingly, and tried to ignore the wave of fear that was swelling within her. “Sure.”

“I just wanted you to know that I’m not going to be a problem for you and Max anymore,” Tess continued quickly, and then glanced down for a long moment. When she looked up again, Liz saw tears shining in her eyes. “I won’t get in your way again, Liz.”

“Tess…”

“I just wanted you to know that, okay?” she said finally, and stood from the booth before Liz could even formulate an intelligent reply. “Well, that… and that you guys can count on me.”

Suddenly Liz was only aware of two things--the hammering of her heart and the Collective Soul song that suddenly seemed to be playing far too loudly.

And she couldn’t think of a single thing to say in response—she was simply too stunned.

“Okay,” she finally answered lamely.

“You’ll tell Max for me?”

“Well, you could tell him. He’s working now… you could just walk over,” Liz offered.

“No.” Tess shook her head vigorously, and Liz could see the tears begin spilling from her eyes. “Please just tell him for me.”

Liz felt something surprising stir within her, when she thought of how much Tess really did love Max—and remembered her own willingness to walk away from him. This had to be killing her, and yet she was doing it—and Liz couldn’t help but feel incredibly sorry for her in that moment, even with all their awful personal history.

Tess reached inside her purse, and removed an envelope. “And you can give this back to him,” she said, handing her Marco’s letter.

“Tess,” she called after her.

She turned quickly back, and Liz touched her lightly on the arm. “Thank you,” she said. “I know how hard this was for you.”

Then Tess did the strangest thing—she smiled at Liz, even with the tears gleaming in her eyes.

“Yeah, but it was the right thing to do,” she said, and with that turned quickly and left the restaurant.

Liz stared down at the envelope in her hand and remembered her earlier premonition.

Maybe this really was going to be a perfect day.



Liz pulled Maria quickly into the back of the restaurant. “Has Brody ordered a sandwich yet?” she asked.

“No. Why?”

“I absolutely have to talk to Max,” Liz answered, pacing back and forth. She rubbed her hands across her face. “Oh, please just tell me Brody will order something today,” she begged the cosmos.

“Lizzie, sometimes you can be so dense,” Maria laughed.

“What do you mean?”

“Duh. If Brody doesn’t order something, Max will,” she laughed. “Just so you’ll deliver it.”

Liz suddenly calmed a bit. Of course, how could she have forgotten his old habit? Probably because they’d been apart for far too long.

“You’re right,” Liz smiled. “Of course you are.”

“Is this about Tess coming in?” Maria asked, her eyes dancing mischeviously.

“You saw?”

“Yes. What did the wicked witch do? Spill the whole destiny line of crap?”

“No,” Liz nearly shouted with joy. She had to calm down—but she felt like simply dancing her way across the street to the UFO Center. “Oh, Maria…I wish so much I could tell you everything right this minute.”

Maria looked out into the restaurant, then quickly back to Liz. “How about the short version?”

Liz groaned, because Maria had no idea what all was involved. “Well, how about that Tess is okay with our being together?” Liz’s voice lilted upwards at the end, singing with her excitement.

Maria placed the back of her hand against Liz’s forehead. “Are you somehow hallucinating? Is that what making love with an alien does to you?”

Liz died laughing. “I know. It’s unbelievable isn’t it?” she asked. “But it’s absolutely true, Maria.”

Maria grabbed her hands and shrieked with her. “Can I just sing the song from the Wizard of Oz right now? Ding dong…”

“Maria!” Liz interrupted. “She was just really nice to me about this.”

“Well, how about if I sing it in my head?”

“In the head is okay,” Liz smiled at her, walking back toward the main area of the restaurant. Then she paused briefly, glancing back at Maria for a quick moment. “Man, I just love Saturdays!” she declared, swinging the door open in front of her.



By 1:30 pm, Liz was absolutely losing her mind. She’d been waiting patiently for almost two hours now, yet still no order had come in from across the street. The lunch crowd had finally started thinning out, and she would simply have to pay Max a visit if no order came in soon. She’d considered trying to connect with him, so she could share the amazing news, but somehow she really just wanted to see his expression when she told him. But just when she thought she couldn’t stand it any longer, Maria cornered her near the milkshake machine.

“Order from you know who,” she said slyly. “Should be ready in ten minutes.”

“Really?” Liz smiled.

“I think he ordered the Alien Euphoria Burger.” Maria quipped. “Is that on the menu yet—or is that going to be a new addition?”

“I’ll talk to my dad about it,” Liz joked back. “I’m sure he’d totally get the necessity.”



Liz walked down the steps of the UFO Center and saw Max sitting at Brody’s computer. He glanced up at her immediately, and Liz realized with a little shiver of excitement that he couldn’t have possibly heard her yet.

He had felt her.

He rose to meet her at the bottom of the stairs and kissed her quickly on the cheek.

“I waited all morning for you to place your order,” she whispered. “I’ve been dying to share something with you.”

He slipped his arm gently around her shoulders, guiding her toward Brody’s office. “What’s going on?”

“It’s Tess,” she began, and could see worry flash in his eyes. “No, no…it’s really amazing…she came in to tell me she’s okay with us,” she grabbed his hand within her own. “With our being together.”

Liz saw amazement dance across his features. “Really?” he asked quietly, but she could hear the excitement in his voice.

“Yes,” she breathed. “Really. And she said we can count on her.”

He stared down at the ground for a long moment, and Liz wondered what he was thinking—in fact, she almost began to worry. But when he met her gaze again, he was smiling so broadly that the expression on his face nearly took her breath away.

It was like a huge weight—something he’d been carrying for months—had been lifted off of him in that single moment. She threw her arms around his shoulders, hugging him tightly to her. He answered by pressing soft kisses against the top of her head, and she heard him sigh contentedly.

“Oh, Liz,” he whispered. “It’s not like we needed her approval, but…”

“I know,” she breathed. “I totally know.”

She wasn’t even sure how long they stood like that, just holding one another, drinking in the scent of freedom.
Somehow they both knew that the time had finally come for them to be together without challenge--without question--and for all of them to step into their true destiny.

And then she remembered something unexpected from Marco’s letter. He’d said that her gift was intuition… and maybe that’s how she’d known that it was going to be a perfect day. Because this was indeed perfection—and for as long as she lived, she would hold this moment up as a benchmark, something to measure all other moments by.

This was the moment when she and her love had finally been set free.



posted on 2-Nov-2001 5:06:22 PM
PART TWENTY SEVEN

Liz sat alone in the Crashdown, rubbing her tired feet. It was shortly after ten p.m., and the restaurant was finally closed. She’d agreed to pull an unexpected second shift, and now her body was complaining loudly. But she felt energized with an expectancy that she’d never known before--and also felt incredibly anxious, because any minute Max would arrive, along with Tess, Michael and Isabel.

And the truth would be out in the open, once and for all.

It would change all of their lives forever, what was about to be revealed—and the entire group’s acceptance of their destiny was critical. But somehow, after winning Tess over, Liz knew that the others would follow.

When Max had suggested meeting after closing-time at the café, Liz had asked him not to include Maria, so that Michael could digest the contents of Marco’s letter before talking to her. She wanted to protect Maria about this revelation, especially since she knew it would cause whole new levels of insecurity within Maria. After all, Liz knew firsthand the pain of hearing that the man she loved was destined to be with another—and yearned to spare Maria that same heartache.

But Liz didn’t really think that Tess would cause problems for Maria and Michael—especially not after her graciousness earlier today. Tess had already spent far too long pining after someone who hadn’t returned her affections, and Liz suspected that she wouldn’t even entertain the notion of a relationship with Michael. Besides, there was nothing in the letter that indicated they should be together—only that they had been engaged in their previous life. There wasn’t the heavy weight of royal duty and obligation that had haunted her own relationship with Max when they’d first found out about Tess.

No, these new revelations shouldn’t pose a threat to Maria’s relationship with Michael… unless Michael proved to be his usual insensitive self.

Liz grimaced and hoped that Michael would at least nominally reassure Maria—let her know that he loved her, no matter what-- instead of holding back from her emotionally at such a vulnerable time. But as Liz’s concern for Maria began to intensify, she remembered her perfect day theory, and decided to rely on that.


“So, are you going to tell me what this meeting is all about?” Michael asked, as Max turned the jeep into a parking space behind the Crashdown.

“Yeah, Max, that might be nice at this point,” Isabel quipped. “I have a lot better things to do on a Saturday night than attend one of your little meetings.”

Max shifted the gear into park, and turned in his seat to face them both in the darkness. “There’s been a lot going on the past week,” he began. “Things you both need to know about.”

“Oh, and so you’ve just now decided to share this information?” Michael asked, irritation evident in his voice.

Max knew he had to prepare them if the meeting was going to go well—had to begin to draw them to his side now.

“It’s all unfolded pretty quickly. I didn’t know about any of it until two days ago,” he answered softly.

“Then who did know?” Isabel asked.

“Liz,” he answered quietly. “Liz knew.”

“Oh, of course. This is about Liz Parker,” Michael groaned. “I’m willing to bet it could have waited until Monday.”

Max felt irritation already beginning to mount within him. Why was Michael always so resistant to Liz?

“No, Michael, it couldn’t wait,” he answered sharply.

They all fell silent for a moment, and Max considered his next words. This was harder than he’d imagined—in some ways harder than their conversation with Tess had been, precisely because Michael and Isabel meant so much to him.

“Look, here’s the thing,” he began solemnly. “We’re going to tell you stuff tonight that’s going to change some things forever. All I’m asking right now—in advance—is that you keep an open mind.”

“This doesn’t sound good, Maxwell.” Michael insisted roughly. “Why don’t you cut to the chase right now.”

“Because we all need to discuss this together.”

“And what if we don’t keep an open mind? What then?” he countered.

“I’m asking this…” Max’s voice trailed off. He knew what had to be said, but it was so uncomfortable for him. “As your leader.”

“Oh, please,” Isabel groaned.

Max turned quickly to face her in the back seat. “I’m dead serious, Isabel.”

“Oh, so it’s the king deal, huh?” she replied tartly.

Max ran a hand across his eyes, suddenly feeling incredibly tired. “You know, Iz, has it ever occurred to you that I never wanted to be the leader?” he began, his voice raising slightly.

“I mean, you’re always so quick to give me a hard time about it,” he continued, meeting her gaze. “But has that thought ever crossed your mind?”

Isabel remained quiet for a long moment, and stared at her fingernails in the darkness.

“I am asking this as your leader,” he continued. “And I wouldn’t do that if this weren’t really important, okay? I’m just asking you both to hear what we have to say.”

“Look, Max,” Michael began quietly. “I trust you, okay? If you say we need to listen, we’ll do it.”

“Thank you,” he answered, glancing at Isabel again. She still wouldn’t meet his gaze. “Iz?”

“Sure, Max, we’re with you,” she mumbled.

“Let’s just stay unified,” he replied. “That’s the key, no matter what.”

“Okay, but now you’ve really got me going.” Michael opened his door. “I’m wondering what the hell you’re about to tell us.”

Max opened his own door slowly. “Well, let’s just say it’s going to be a very interesting conversation.”



The group was gathered at a table in the middle of the restaurant, with the letter open in front of them. As when they’d met with Tess, they had again shared different pieces of the entire story. Michael and Isabel had listened attentively, and this time it had felt more comfortable, knowing that their audience was much less inclined toward hostility. But it still hadn’t been easy--especially not with Michael’s frequent outbursts of disbelief—something Tess had at least spared them.

Max ended by handing them Marco’s letter, which Isabel had read over Michael’s shoulder, and the silence had seemed endless. Liz had suddenly felt so frightened—so alone— and she’d wanted to connect with Max, even if only briefly. But she’d resisted the urge so that he could remain focused, poised to handle whatever happened next.

Michael finished reading first, glancing up at Max. “Why are we supposed to believe this, Maxwell? This could be a setup from our enemies…it could be anything.”

“Look, I know it seems outrageous,” Max answered, staring down at the letter in Michael’s hands. “But how could our enemies have known about this future version of myself coming to Liz?”

“I don’t know,” Michael replied. “But this just sits wrong with me. Way wrong.”

Liz glanced at Isabel, and saw something strange in her countenance—an emotion that she couldn’t name. She’d known the letter might upset her, especially given Marco’s comments about her behavior in their past life, but she was still a bit surprised by the expression on her face.

But nothing had prepared her for what she did next.

Isabel rose quickly from her chair, stifling a small sob with the back of her hand. “I’ve got to get out of here,” she cried, and hurried toward the door.

They all stared after her in shock—especially Max—as she ran out of the restaurant. Liz watched Max keenly, and felt her heart lurch within her. Pain flashed in his eyes as he watched Isabel leave. He turned quickly back to Liz, and she knew he was pleading with her—begging her for some kind of insight. This had been so unexpected, and she knew he felt blindsided. Isabel meant so much to him, and he would do anything rather than hurt her willingly.

Liz reached out and took his hand gently within her own. “You should go after her,” she said quietly. “Go find her, Max.”

He nodded silently, his eyes lingering on their hands. She felt the faintest glimmer of their connection, and knew he was reaching for her. That he needed her tremendously at this moment, even within this large group. She answered his call, and allowed their bond to open slightly.

And she willed him to know that it would be okay with Isabel. That he could handle this with her… help her through whatever she was feeling.

Liz felt Max’s energy pass through all of her senses, and her face grew instantly hot.

And then he pulled away again, leaving her feeling very lonely for him as he stood to follow Isabel.

“I’ll be back,” he said quietly, as he walked toward the door.

Michael watched Max leave, then turned to face them. “Okay, I have a question,” Michael said, leaning across the table. “Tess, why do you believe this letter? More than any of us, you’d have reason to blow it off.”

Tess was quiet for a long moment, then met Michael’s intense gaze. “Because I remembered something from our past life… something that made me believe.”

“Alright, what was it?” he pressed.

Tess shifted uncomfortably in her seat, and Liz sensed it was difficult for her to share this memory. She considered cautioning Michael not to push her too hard.

“Well, Michael, it was really pretty personal, okay?” She answered. “Can we just leave it at that?”

“No, we can’t,” he responded curtly. “I need to know. We all do.”

Tess sighed heavily, and stared down at her hands. “I’ve always remembered Max. For a long time now…”

Liz’s heart began to beat quickly. What if this was leading someplace she didn’t want to go?

“Remembered what about him?” Michael asked.

“That I was… bound to him somehow. By his side. I don’t know… I always interpreted the emotions to mean I’d been his wife,” she finished, meeting Liz’s gaze briefly, and then just as quickly, averted her eyes.

“So last night I tried memory retrieval again,” Tess continued. “Look, I didn’t believe the letter at all, okay?” She stated, her eyes sweeping the cafe. “But I knew I needed to push harder, try to remember more.”

“And you did,” Liz finished softly.

Tess nodded, chewing on her lip thoughtfully.

“Can you tell us?” Liz asked gently. “Are you comfortable with that?”

Tess nodded slowly, but remained silent. Then, after a long moment she spoke. “I remembered you, Liz. I saw you.”

“Saw her?” Michael asked incredulously.

“It was just impressions… not like I saw what she looked like.”

“Then how the hell could you have known it was Liz?” Michael stormed.

“Because, Michael, I saw her with Max,” Tess answered tartly. “I was with both of them. They were together… joined…” Tess’s voice trailed off, and Liz felt her face flush. She knew exactly what Tess was describing—the bond she now had with Max.

God, she’d seen that in her vision? How completely mortifying.

“So, you’re saying you saw them both—what? Married?”

Tess nodded, then hesitated a long moment. She looked briefly at Liz again, and she had the impression that Tess was holding something back from them.

“And I heard her name. I heard Zillia very clearly,” she finished.

Liz shivered slightly at her words, at hearing her former name out loud--from someone other than Max. It felt so hauntingly familiar.

Michael raked a hand roughly through his hair. “I just don’t buy this, Tess. I’m really surprised that you do.”

“Michael, I saw her. Don’t you get what I’m saying?” Tess stated firmly. “It was real, and you can either accept it or not. But if I can change my thinking about all of this, it seems like you ought to be able to.”

Michael stood and walked away from them to the other side of the café, and Liz watched him pace. He was trying to sort out his emotions, and clearly needed a little room. Liz suddenly felt very awkward sitting at the table with just Tess, especially after her revelations about the memory retrieval.

Tess drummed her fingers on the café table. “He might not buy this, Liz,” she said quietly.

“I think he will, but it may take some time.”

“You know, it’s not like I want to take Michael’s place within the unit or whatever.”

“I know.” Liz nodded firmly. “I believe that.”

“Well, I hope he does,” Tess countered.

Liz felt a question burning within her mind—one that had been growing for the past few moments. She desperately needed to know what Tess remembered, but she wondered if she should even venture pushing her about that. Liz didn’t want to embarrass her, or make things even more awkward between the two of them than they already were. But she had to know… the question was simply too insistent now.

“Um, Tess,” she began gingerly. “Could I ask you something? I mean, you don’t have to answer if you don’t want to.”

Tess raised her eyebrows questioningly. “Sure.”

“Well… I’m just wondering,” Liz hesitated, reaching for the right words. “Did you remember anything else about me? I mean anything about what I was like or…” Liz’s voice trailed off when she saw the expression on Tess’s face--she had paled visibly, and Liz knew immediately that she’d pushed too hard.

“I’m sorry,” Liz rushed. “I know it’s very personal and all… it’s just this is all so new to me.”

“No, it’s okay.” Tess reassured her softly. “I did remember something else about you, actually.”

Liz leaned forward, eager for whatever Tess might be able to tell her. “Really?”

“Yeah, and this will shock the hell out of you, okay? It did me.” She laughed. “I remembered that we were… friends. Really good friends.”

It was literally the last thing Liz had expected to hear. She didn’t even know what to say in response, and Tess just looked away from her, avoiding her gaze.

“Wow,” she finally answered. “That is kind of surprising, huh?”

“No kidding,” Tess laughed. “But who knows? Maybe we could…” Tess hesitated a moment. “Eventually become friends in this lifetime.”

“Yeah, I’d like that, Tess,” she replied quietly. “I really would.”


Max walked down the side streets surrounding the Crashdown, his throat dry with fear.

What had happened with Isabel? Of all of them, the letter should have been the least upsetting to her. Yes, there was mention of her mistakes in the past life, but he had never expected her to become so emotional about it.

Had it been his fault? Had he done something to hurt her?

Max was completely perplexed, and until he found her, he could only wonder what had happened.

He spotted the jeep, and as he began walking in that direction, noticed Isabel leaning against it. Her face was buried within her hands, and he could hear her quiet sobs echoing in the alleyway.

“Isabel,” he called, quickening his steps.

She turned away from him, facing the jeep. “Max, I need to be alone,” she murmured through her tears.

He reached her and touched her arm lightly. “Iz, what on earth is the matter? Why are you so upset?” he asked softly.

“You can tell me,” he urged. But she wouldn’t face him, kept avoiding his gaze. “Was it the letter?”

She nodded silently, and turned toward him. Her face was streaked with tears, and her makeup had run around her eyes.

“Oh, God, Max,” she cried. “I’m so sorry. I’m just so sorry.”

“About what?” he asked quietly. “What’s wrong, Isabel?”

She wiped at the tears, and stared at the ground in front of them. “I’ve been keeping so much from you, Max.”

He felt panic rise within him.

Why did he think that something was about to change between the two of them? Something irreversible?

“Okay,” he answered reassuringly. “Just tell me now.”

She met his gaze, and her eyes were wild, tormented. “Max…it was all my fault. What happened back home.”

Max didn’t understand what she was saying, but knew this was important. “Tell me what you mean,” he encouraged.

“I mean I betrayed you. It was my fault that you were killed…and I guess that Liz was, too…all of you,” she sobbed, turning away again.

Max placed his hand on her shoulder. “What are you talking about?”

“Nicholas told me. In Copper Summit…told me that I turned on you all!” She cried.

Max was stunned. There were few people he trusted more in this world than he did Isabel. How could she have hurt or betrayed him? But for a moment, he thought he almost remembered it--as if it were happening anew, the emotions her words invoked were so raw.

Maybe on some level he did remember? A quiet voice asked.

But another voice quickly countered—one that reminded him who she’d always been in his life.

“Iz,” he began softly. “Think about what Marco's letter said…”

“I don’t care,” she whispered furiously. “I know what I did to you before.”

“Listen to me,” he said, turning her to face him. “Marco’s letter said that you would never betray me in this lifetime. It said I could trust you.”

Isabel slowly met his gaze. “How did he know that, Max?”

“I don’t know, but I believe it,” he answered firmly. “I know it, Isabel.”

Fresh tears began streaming down her face, and she stared at the ground. “I’ve been keeping all of this inside for weeks now, Max,” she mumbled.

“Weeks?”

“Whitacker told me, too…I’ve lived with this ever since,” she looked at him, pleading with her eyes for him to understand. “I’d never hurt you, Max. Never.”

“Oh, Iz,” he answered. “I know who you are.”

“I’m just so sorry,” she said, finally meeting his gaze. Her eyes blazed with emotion.

“It’s okay,” he reassured her again, and hugged her tightly. “We just have to stick together and remain unified. I know that now more than ever.”

He felt her nod her head slowly, and he wondered for the first time how things were going with Michael back inside the restaurant.

And he hoped it was a whole lot easier than what he was dealing with.


Michael had been pacing the length of the cafe for a long time now, periodically firing questions their way--and Liz and Tess had sat patiently, occasionally exchanging meaningful glances, as they waited him out. Liz had poured them all fresh cups of coffee, and after finally exhausting methods of expending her nervous energy, she had put on one of her father’s old cd’s. Certainly Joni Mitchell ought to calm Michael’s nerves.

She took her seat across from Tess again, and Michael walked quickly to their table.

“Okay, I just want to say one thing,” he began, staring down at Tess.

“Okay,” Tess nodded.

“I’m not buying some deal where we’re supposed to be together,” he finished.

“Um, Michael,” Tess nearly spit out the coffee she’d just sipped. “That like never even entered my mind.”

“Well, I just wanted to be clear on that point.”

“Point taken,” she said with a laugh. “But let me just reassure you… I have no interest in you whatsoever. In that way.”

Tess glanced at Liz, and the two of them broke out laughing. Michael stared at them, his mouth open.

“What’s so funny?” he stormed.

“Nothing, Michael,” Liz answered. “Nothing at all… I think we’re just happy that this might mean you believe the letter?”

He groaned, walking away from them. “Yeah, I think I do,” he answered. “But I still need some time.”

“Okay,” Liz replied, her eyes darting to Tess’s in excitement.

It was amazing, how quickly she’d begun to feel that they were allies now, especially in the wake of this evening’s difficulty.

Michael walked toward the stereo. “But that doesn’t mean I’m willing to put up with crap girl music like this,” he said, ejecting the cd.

“That’s my dad’s, thank you very much,” Liz sparred.

“Whatever,” he countered. “It’s still crap girl music in my book.”

Liz laughed giddily, because if that was Michael’s biggest problem, then they’d truly won him over tonight.

Perfect day, Liz sighed to herself. It was still just a pefect day.

PART TWENTY EIGHT

It was nearly one a.m., and Liz had been lying awake for a good hour. Max had never returned to the cafe, and she’d finally turned off all the lights and headed upstairs once Michael and Tess had left.

I’ll be back, he’d promised.

She wondered nervously what had transpired with Isabel--what had kept him away for such a long time—and she felt a restlessness grow within her. She knew he was coming to her tonight, knew it by the way she felt his energy all around her—resonating within her. He’d just been delayed so far.

Liz rolled over in bed again, glancing up at her window. She kept expecting to see him there any moment, beckoning her—but she was so drained after this amazing day.

Maybe she could just close her eyes for a few moments while she waited.


Sleep enveloped Liz, folding in around her, all hazy edges and dim awareness. She began to doze lightly, but her senses remained on edge, waiting for Max. Longing for him, even in her fitful half-dream state.

She wanted to celebrate with him, mark this day in their history in some way, because for the first time nothing stood in their way. They knew their true destiny… and they could step forward without reservation.

Liz rolled over restlessly in her sleep, needing him.

Yearning for her mate.

Hazy images… Max’s jeep, her hair blowing freely in the sunshine. Laughter… both of theirs, entwining, lilting toward the sky.

Daylight faded, and instead nighttime…the stars…the heavens. Max kissing her, the inky blackness wrapping all around them, even as Max covered her with himself. Something stirred within her… heat. Pure heat… then his lightest touch against her skin.


Liz came suddenly awake, and saw Max kneeling beside her bed, the moonlight barely illuminating him.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, tracing his finger lightly across her cheek. “I didn’t mean to wake you.”

Liz smiled in the darkness of her room. “Are you kidding?” she asked. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

He leaned over her, kissing her warmly, and his mouth tasted surprisingly salty—and so familiar. She met his kiss gently, and he answered by taking her mouth more fully.

Then the heat that had begun to envelop her during sleep, took hold of her body more firmly, radiating through every last bit of her. Her bedroom was so silent, and there was only the sound of Max’s gentle breathing against her face.

“Come here,” she whispered huskily.

“Are you sure?” he asked uncertainly, glancing toward her bedroom door.

“Yes,” she breathed. “I need you so much right now.”

She scooted over in bed, suddenly aware of her skimpy t-shirt and underwear, as he climbed in beside her. He pulled her close to his chest, and he was like a furnace, drawing her near on a wintry night.

“Is Isabel okay?” she whispered in the darkness.

“Yes,” he answered, and began kissing her again, this time much more deeply and hungrily.

“I had to take her home, and then wait for my parents to go to bed. That’s what kept me,” he murmured in her ear. “I’ve wanted this for hours now, Liz.”

He slipped his hands easily underneath her t-shirt, tenderly stoking her back with his fingers. Their kisses deepened, so succulent and delicious.

“Your parents…” he questioned, continuing his rain of kisses across her face, down along her neck.

“We just have to be really quiet,” Liz whispered. “Silent.”

He stopped kissing her abruptly and stared into her eyes for a long moment, incredible longing burned within his eyes. But she glimpsed more than longing there—she saw naked, undisguised love—passion that had deepened by increasing measures over the past days.

“What?” she whispered.

He smiled, stroking her hair back from her face, and then slowly shook his head. He cupped her cheek within his hand, drawing her mouth within a breath of his own… yet still he said nothing.

And then she felt it… knew what he’d done in that brief moment.

Heat swept across her in one swelling crescendo, cresting over her entire body--Max’s raw energy sizzling every part of her.

All of her body, even the most delicate places. Places that belonged exclusively to him now.

She opened their connection slowly, tantalizing him-- then it sprang to life, and she felt more than just his energy… she felt Max.

All over her, touching her.

Skittering across her skin, he darted all along their bond, and yet as she stared at him in the darkness, he lay completely still.

He began pressing the lightest kisses against her forehead, and she marveled at the sound of his quickening breaths. They were making love in the deepest way… the quietest way. Her parents would never know—and with that thought, she allowed their connection to unfurl wildly and felt Max rush inside of her, so desperate, so full of need. She found his lips in the darkness, and their kisses grew in intensity.


Liz was driving him crazy, just by lying beside him in that little t-shirt, and now the way she’d been toying with their bond, refusing to open to him fully. If he couldn’t make love to her physically, at least he needed to be completely connected… joined to the exclusion of all else. And yet she’d kept playing so coy, tantalizing him purposely. He’d felt her like a whisper all over him, breathing quietly along his skin.

And then finally their connection had opened--now she was inside of him, and he within her. Oh, but he wished she’d settle down… she was so giddy, whirling all about. He tried to still her, but she kept leaping in and out, until finally their souls found one another.

Like the deepest ecstasy, he touched her soul… so solid, so beautiful. He saw the colors again… magenta and green…a bit of purple. Swirling together, intertwining, melding.

And then the colors joined into one exotic hue, just as he felt their souls weave mysteriously together.

He gasped slightly, and felt the most amazing thrill of satisfaction, as Liz shuddered slightly in his arms. He was aware of how labored his breathing had become, of how much he wanted her physically now. There was simply no separating these two different dimensions of their lovemaking… one always lead right to the other.

Oh, sweet Liz, he moaned quietly. This isn’t enough…

I know,
she answered, kissing him on the neck.

I need all of you, he begged quietly.

She began unbuttoning his shirt, as he eased her onto her back, kissing her along her neck, then down along her collarbone. He helped her out of her t-shirt, her breasts falling free beneath him, and he trailed the kisses lower down onto her chest, tracing the path of freckles.

Oh, those beautiful freckles. He could see them in the moonlight, dusting her skin so delicately.

You really like those, don’t you? She panted.

Umm…. He could barely whisper in reply.

Max paused in his seductive kisses, tracing his thumb along the freckles that trailed down toward her breast.

He felt her leap a bit within him, like a jolt of electricity. She was thrilling so at his touch, that it humbled him.

You affect me without even touching me, she reminded him in a gentle whisper.

Show me, he insisted.

Then he slipped more firmly on top of her, his knee pressing her thighs gently apart. She finished unbuttoning his shirt, and it fell away from his chest. Skin against skin, their bare chests touched in the darkness, so soft against one another.

He groaned out loud—couldn’t have helped it if he’d tried.

Max, she cautioned gently.

It’s your fault, he cried.

And in answer, he felt sunlight dance across his arms, his back… shimmering like gold dust all along his skin… Liz whispering along their connection, singing to him.

What was she trying to do to him?

Come inside, my love, she beckoned softly.

He had to get out of these damn blue jeans right away.


Max shimmied out of his pants amazingly fast, and eased back on top of her again. She could feel him underneath his boxers, so firmly defined. He pressed up against her, even through their underwear, and they began a soft rhythm with their hips. Back and forth they rocked, and Liz felt their bond begin to do something strange, as it changed suddenly without warning, becoming hungry and insistent. She tried to pull Max closer inside of her, but it was like their desperate physical need for one another had overridden their connection. She knew they’d joined earlier, yet it felt like he was so far away now—and she needed more of him.

Liz quickly slid Max’s boxers off of his warm hips, and he peeled away her panties, slipping between her legs. She was incredibly wet, and in one swift motion he thrust inside of her, enveloping her with his warmth.

We just have to be very quiet, Max. She cautioned.

Their physical need was unbelievable, shutting everything else out--there was only their two bodies now, resonating with such strong desire.

Max began thrusting gently within her, but at the same time she felt him grasping for her within their bond. Their spiritual joining grew suddenly deeper, more intense, and he pulled her tightly within himself, so possessive and hungry--their physical lovemaking only mirrored what was happening within their souls. This deep joining could only spin inward, to hidden places they’d never found before. It was like some intricate ballet, the way their alien and human sides were making love, with one and then the other taking center stage, back and forth.

He swept her hair away from her face with his hand, and stared down into her eyes, and suddenly his rhythm gentled, and the silence grew electric between them. He stroked her hair slowly, just looking at her, and she felt tears well within her eyes.

Very softly, he rocked back and forth within her, and she couldn’t believe what it began to do to her—how her desire began to escalate, making her feel suddenly wild.

Their breathing became ragged now, and their bodies more insistent, as their rhythm began to increase again. Max’s need intensified, mirroring her own, and he moaned softly in her ear, as he cried out within her.

Their passion crested further, and they lead one another out to the edge…beyond and back again.

And when it was done, they could only lie silently that way, Max still nestled gently inside of her.

She stroked his back, tracing the contours of his muscles…his backbone. She trailed her fingers up into his hair, as he buried his face against her. Their breathing slowed finally, and there remained only the thrumming of his energy all through her body. She’d noticed this the last time they made love—it seemed he left something of his power within her each time--a sort of residual electricity in the wake of his lovemaking.

It was like Max blazed a trail of fire across her body and soul, so that when they were finished making love, she was marked by him.



They lay on their sides now, nestled together. He was so sleepy , so contented… but he wanted to be with her.

Liz, everything has changed forever.

I know.

I’m almost a little frightened,
he confessed. Her eyes flew to his in concern.

No, no… I mean, it’s overwhelming really. To have you so freely…

She cupped his face within her tiny palm, stroking his skin.

To think that you were mine once before, and that we found our way to one another again… across such distances… he continued.

It’s because we’re destined for one another, Max. It’s no accident.

He nodded in the darkness, and knew there was something he needed to tell her, although it scared him terribly.

But she needed to know.


What is it? Liz asked, sensing something within him that she couldn’t name. Not fear exactly… something unsettled.

He cuddled her more closely to him, and she lay her head against his chest. He began stroking her hair, threading his fingers through the length of it.

There’s something I never told you, Liz.

What,
she asked, feeling suddenly anxious. There were no more secrets between them, so what was this?

Well, it’s just that… months ago, after Tess came, I had a dream one night. And I remembered my wife. He sighed, and then continued. God how I loved this wife.

Liz’s heart began to thunder within her chest. His love for her crossed lifetimes, and he’d remembered it.

I never told you because I didn’t want to hurt you… and because I knew you’d think it was Tess.

But it was me,
she finished softly.

Yes, he said gazing into her eyes. And the thing is, Liz… it was just like this, exactly like it, all the emotions.

It’s more intense this time, though, isn’t it?
Liz asked quietly.

Max hesitated a long moment, then finally continued. “It’s magnified enormously for some reason.”

Maybe because this isn’t our first time down this path, she answered.

Max rolled onto his side, nestling her against his chest, and she felt him bury his face against the top of her head. He wanted to sleep, she felt it. Such a peace had enveloped him, even at sharing this hidden memory.

They lay like that for a long time, just quiet and close, only the sound of their rhythmic breathing--back and forth across the night--only the feel of their bare bodies against one another.

At some point, Liz sensed him drop into slumber, as she felt their bond change into something drowsy and soothing, like a warm bath.

Yet they remained connected, even as he slept in her arms like that.

But she wanted to remain awake--wanted to cherish this moment, etch it into her memory forever.

One perfect day had simply melted right into a new one, and Liz understood that this was just the beginning. She knew they would have their battles in the future, but they would fight them together, standing as one.

Because now they truly belonged to one another in every conceivable way…and no one could ever take that away from them again.

At long last, this was their time.



posted on 2-Nov-2001 5:13:26 PM
PART TWENTY NINE--EPILOGUE

The ringing telephone jarred Liz suddenly awake. She glanced at her alarm clock, and saw that it was already nine a.m. She groaned realizing how late she’d slept—she had so much to do before her 11:00 a.m. American Literature class.

She fumbled for the phone and one thought immediately surfaced.

Max.

“Hi,” she said sleepily, as she pressed the receiver to her ear.

She heard him laugh softly on the other end of the line. “Good thing I wasn’t trying to surprise you.”

“At least you could tell I was happy that it was you.”

“Yeah,” he answered softly. “You do sound happy. Must have been that great night of rest.”

“Oh, please!” Liz laughed. “You’ve been conducting sleep deprivation experiments on me for weeks now.”

“I haven’t heard you complaining,” he replied huskily.

Liz was silent a long moment. She didn’t have a good come back for that one.

“You’re going to be late for class, though,” he continued.

“Not if I get off the phone and take my shower,” she countered.

“I have a better idea. How about forgetting class for just this one day?” He asked in a mischievous voice.

“Aren’t you at work?”

“Well… I asked my dad for the afternoon off,” he answered. “He’s got a court case anyway.”

“Hmm…” Liz thought for a moment. She’d only been at the university for a month, and it was hard to grow accustomed to the more flexible class schedule. But this was the summer, and a Friday, so classes were more relaxed. Besides, she’d been missing Max so much lately—what with his long hours at his father’s law firm, and her own tough study schedule. The only time they seemed to find for one another was when he came to her room late each night, and even then, he always crept out long before daybreak.

“What’d you want to do?” She asked.

“Well that part is a surprise,” he laughed. “I’ll pick you up in an hour.”



Liz stared at her reflection in the bathroom mirror, as she finished blow drying her hair. She wondered if she looked different now--she wasn’t a high school girl anymore, and so much had changed inside of her during the past year and a half.

Max had thoroughly transformed her inner terrain each time they’d made love, whenever they connected. He had been slowly--almost deliberately-- unlocking things within her, and in the process Liz Parker had become someone wholly different.

It seemed that her connection with Max had opened her intuition up in so many other areas. It was as if the more Max’s soul had woven with her own, she’d begun to sense things— know things. He’d opened her to a whole other world of impressions and instincts.

Sometimes it was just little things, like knowing it was Max on the phone—although of course that was their own connection more than anything else. But other times it was something more important—maybe knowing who they should trust.

And when to trust herself, she reflected.

Like when she’d decided to tell Max the truth about Kyle, had risked everything that she and Max’s future self had tried to accomplish. Even then, some quiet inner voice had guided her, and she’d acquiesced.

Liz stared into the mirror, and recalled the night when Max’s future self had kissed her in this very same bathroom. He’d begun the change within her even then, that very night.

It was bizarre, but sometimes she missed his future self, yearned for him a bit. He’d been so different than her Max, and yet he’d loved her with a husband’s heart--enough to risk everything, just so she might glimpse the connection he’d shared with her in the future.

Since then, Liz had realized that on some level, he’d never really wanted their plan to succeed, or he never would have kissed her that night. It was like he’d been silently begging her to find another future for the two of them--one where they could be together, without it being the end of the world.

Slowly, she opened her eyes… and saw Max smiling at her from the doorway, just quietly watching her. She jumped a little, surprised that she hadn’t sensed him already—but then again, she’d been so caught up in her memories.

“Hi,” he said, moving to kiss her. His lips softly grazed her own.

“Hi,” she answered, turning off the blow dryer.

“You forgot what day it is, didn’t you?” he asked gently.

“What do you mean?” She asked, and then awareness quickly dawned. “Oh, Max!” she cried, pulling away from him.

“July 12th.” He smiled at her broadly. “Our wedding day.”

“I can’t believe I forgot. We were going to do something special.”

“We still can,” he said, stroking her hair away from her face with a light touch of his hand.

“What do you have in mind?” she asked coyly.

Max hesitated a moment, staring deeply into her eyes, and she felt a little shiver settle over her skin. She wasn’t sure what he was thinking.

“Let’s go to Vegas, Liz,” he answered finally.

She stared at him, speechless.

“Max, what are you saying?” she asked, a thrill of excitement shooting through her.

“I’m saying let’s get married, Liz,” he whispered, pulling her into his arms. “Let’s elope, just like we did last time.”

“We always said…”

“I know what we’ve always said, but I can’t wait until after college, Liz.” He drew in a quick breath. “This is driving me insane. I want the world to know what you already are to me.”

Liz’s heart beat crazily. This was crazy. She could think of a million reasons why they shouldn’t do it—and yet just like Max, it was becoming nearly impossible for her to keep pretending they weren’t already mated for life.

“We don’t have any money,” she offered softly.

“I’ve saved some,” he answered. “But I’m sure we didn’t have any money the first time, Liz. We’ll have each other… the rest will take care of itself.”

Liz pulled away from him, and stared up into his golden eyes. He was serious—dead serious. He was ready to marry her this very day.

This is your future, your present, that quiet voice of intuition whispered. You belong to him completely anyway.

And she knew this was one of those moments—a time to trust her raw instincts.

“Yes, Max,” she breathed. “I want to.”

He broke into a radiant smile, and cupped her face within his hands. He kissed her for a long moment, letting his mouth lingering against her own.

“You’re saying you’ll be my wife,” he murmured. “Do you realize that?”

She pulled away, and traced her fingers across his lips. “I already am your wife, Max.”

“But now the world will know.”

She ran her hand across his cheek, and felt soft stubble prickle her fingers. Lately, he’d had more of a beard… was becoming more of a man, and less of a boy.

“I’ll be Liz Evans,” she said, and pulled him close to her, whispering in his ear. “Yes, Max, I definitely want the world to know that, too.”

“Good,” he laughed gently. “Because I already bought the plane tickets. We’re on a 12:30 flight.”

“You were that sure I’d say yes?” She asked in amazement.

He nodded silently, kissing her, his lips incredibly warm against her own. “But I was prepared to convince you, even if you’d said no.”

“I would never have said no,” Liz exclaimed. “Just maybe ‘not yet.’”

“Doesn’t matter,” he murmured, kissing her again. “I wasn’t going to accept anything less than yes today.”

Their kisses deepened and Liz felt Max’s heart open fully to her. And she sensed his overwhelming pleasure that she’d agreed to marry him now… not later, after college. His contentment just rolled over her in soothing waves, surrounding her completely. Liz sighed, drinking him in--his familiar scent, the warmth of his body.

“Just promise me one thing, Max,” she whispered in a serious voice.

“Anything.”

“That it doesn’t have to be at the Elvis Chapel.”

“Actually…” he hesitated.

“What?”

“Well, I pretty much felt the same way… and I’ve already booked something much more elegant for 9 p.m. tonight.”

“Max!” she cried in surprise.

“I had to cover all the bases… and you’ve got an appointment at a bridal shop at 4:00 p.m., so we’d better get going.”

“You’ve thought of everything, haven’t you?” she asked incredulously.

“I wanted it to be perfect for you, Liz,” he answered thoughtfully.

Liz threw her arms around his neck, pulling him tightly to her. “It already is, Max.”

“For me, too,” he answered, threading his fingers through the length of her hair. “But we’d better get going if we’re going to make that plane.”

“Yeah, and I should leave a note for my parents.”

Her parents. Oh, God… they were absolutely going to kill both of them.

But Liz Parker, who had so often done just the right thing in her life, was ready to be wild and reckless today. It was July 12, 2002, a day that had once been etched in history as belonging to just the two of them—and she intended to make sure that it was once again.



Max sat on the little garden bench outside Chapel of the Roses, tapping his foot impatiently. Liz wasn’t late yet, but the wait was slowly killing him. They’d parted outside the bridal shop three hours ago, and he’d immediately headed to the chapel to make sure all their arrangements were in order. They had their licenses now, and everything was in place.

Except Liz, who had yet to show. He felt a tiny wave of insecurity. What if she changed her mind? This had all been so rushed, and now she’d had time away from him, when she might have reconsidered their rash plan.

But even as his fears attempted to surface, he knew in his heart that she wanted this as much as he did. He’d felt her excitement all afternoon, cresting through him in little vibrations. In fact, he was pretty sure he’d known the moment when she found her wedding dress, because she’d reached for him briefly. Their connection had skittered momentarily with unbridled giddiness, but then he’d sensed her pull quickly away. It was almost like he’d heard her quickly shushing herself, so as not to spoil any of the details about the dress.

He smiled at the memory, closing his eyes. The excitement he’d felt from her in that moment had been just what he’d wanted this day to be for her--something she’d treasure for the rest of her life.

And even though he knew she might have wanted their friends here, it seemed only right that their wedding be private, without a throng of people looking on--exactly as their spiritual joining had been, so sacred and personal. There would be plenty of time to celebrate with everyone when they got back to Roswell. But this moment was going to be reverential, and he didn’t want to share it with anyone but Liz. Well, and the chaplain, but there was no getting around that, he laughed to himself.

He watched the cars passing on the street, and felt a wave of apprehension. What if she couldn’t find the chapel? Or if her taxi driver didn’t know where it was?

But then he saw a yellow cab pull up to the curb, and glimpsed Liz’s dark hair through the window. He rose quickly to his feet, hurrying to meet her. The back door opened, and his breath literally caught in his throat when he saw her. She was still wearing her khakis and t-shirt from earlier, but she looked more beautiful than he’d ever seen her before, as she pulled a long garment bag out of the car.

“Hey,” she smiled shyly. “What’s that look for?”

He shook his head mutely. How could he possibly explain how radiant she looked in that moment?

She was glowing, inside and out… and it was all because of him.

“What?” she asked again, laughing as he took the hanging bag from her. He stopped, and kissed her quickly.

“It’s just that you look so beautiful, Liz.”

“Wait until you see me in two hours,” she promised, eyes widening playfully.

“I don’t know if I can wait that long,” he sighed, as they stepped up the walkway, toward the chapel door.

She stopped suddenly, turning toward him. “After that, there’s no more waiting… never again,” she promised.



The strains of Pachobel’s Canon in D floated through the empty chapel, as Max stood waiting for Liz, eyes trained on the closed doors at the end of the carpeted aisle. He felt his palms grow clammy, as he realized once again that he was waiting for his intended… his Zillia. His Queen.

How many lifetimes had this moment traversed now, always repeating itself? Yet this was the only one he would remember, he thought, as he waited in hushed expectation.

And now the music paused, as the doors opened… and time simply stopped for one eternal moment. As Max stared at her, he knew that her dress was lovely, all beads and satin, but none of that mattered at all. Because all he could see was her fathomless dark eyes, eyes that he’d lost himself in on so many occasions. And her silky hair, that he always just loved to stroke and touch… pulled back elegantly from her face, so that her delicate features looked even more radiant. But it was her graceful smile that nearly eclipsed everything else, and he felt his heart swell within him.

Instantly, tears filled his eyes, but he blinked them away so he could see her more clearly. She nearly floated down the small aisle toward him, a bouquet of white roses clasped in her tiny hands.

And then this moment, which was already so delirious, intensified even more as she reached out toward him, across the small distance. He gasped slightly, feeling her suddenly all over him, caressing him… as she took her final steps toward the altar.

In all his careful planning this had never once occurred to him--that they should open themselves to one another at precisely this moment. He felt shimmers of Liz’s quiet energy roll through his whole body. Even her scent spread quickly across his skin, nearly intoxicating him with her sudden proximity, as he allowed the connection to unfurl between them.

She stepped beside him, gazing up into his eyes for a long moment.

“I’ve never seen you look more beautiful,” he whispered, kissing her quickly on the cheek.

She beamed up at him, and like a soft embrace, he felt her love surround him fully. He answered by clasping her small gloved hand within his own… and then quickly moved inside of her, just as she slipped within him.

They turned to the chaplain, bonding silently, sacredly--even as they would be joined in the eyes of the world.



Their hotel suite was dark, except for the soft light spilling from the stereo cabinet. Liz’s arms were wrapped around Max’s waist, and her head lay against his chest. He held her close against him, his hand resting softly against the small of her back.


They’d been dancing slowly like this for a long while now, she still dressed in her wedding gown and he in his tuxedo. There was no need to rush anything tonight, and it seemed what they most wanted was simply to hold one another.

Long ago, their breathing had fallen into a quiet rhythm, as they danced together in the darkness. It was surprising how gentle this moment was… she would have thought it would be passionate and intense. Instead, a hush had immediately fallen over the room and their hearts… a reverential stillness.

“I want to stay just like this all night,” she whispered against Max’s chest.

He stroked her back softly through the dress. “We can do anything,” he answered. “We’ve got all weekend.”

She smiled in satisfaction. No more hiding, no more sneaking around.

“Just know this, Liz Evans,” he murmured quietly against her hair. “I plan to make love to you over and over again.”

“I like the sound of that,” she answered.

“In every way, Liz… alien… human… and back again.”

Her heart began to beat more quickly. How was it that his simple words of seduction could unnerve her so fully?

I heard that, he laughed.

Of course you did. I meant for you to.

Ah, I see,
he said, gazing down into her eyes. I guess that means your every wish is my command.

Well,I am a queen now,
she smiled coyly.

He thrilled a bit at her words.

And you’re my king, she continued. But you always were that anyway.

Oh, Liz. Now what am I supposed to do with that?

She glanced up at him curiously.

I mean, that just makes me want to forget everything else…

We can do that, too,
she breathed.

He cupped her face tenderly within his hands. Let’s forget the world, Liz. Right now.

And when he touched her next, slowly unbuttoning the back of her dress, she did forget…everything but Max Evans, her husband.

In fact, they both forgot everything else for almost the rest of their weekend.



The music played loudly in the Crashdown, as strains of Fly Me to the Moon floated all through the café. But the music wasn’t nearly as deafening as everyone’s laughter-- all their friends and family had gathered to welcome them home this Sunday evening. Ever since they’d walked in the door, there’d been so many congratulations and exuberant shouts.

They’d called their parents on Saturday morning from Las Vegas, and Liz had quickly told her father the details. She knew he wasn’t pleased, could hear his quiet anger across the telephone line, even though his words were measured and controlled. Max’s conversation with his mother had gone much better--but then again she understood how happy Liz made him—something her own parents had never fully grasped about Max’s role in her life.

Yet here they all were at the Crashdown, and somehow her parents’ disapproval had dissolved the minute they’d walked in the door. Maybe it was the look they’d seen on her face—she really wasn’t sure. But they’d quickly embraced her, tears in their eyes, and told her that if she was happy, then they were happy for her. At one point, her father had pulled her aside and given her a quiet lecture about school and her studies. She’d almost laughed despite herself, and even in the middle of his talk he’d begun smiling softly.

“I know how serious you are about your studies, Lizzie,” he’d said. “I just want to make sure you and Max are smart about this.”

“I know, Daddy,” she’d said. “Believe me, I couldn’t be more committed to my education.”

“Well, good thing you’re on a scholarship,” he’d answered seriously. “I don’t know how you and Max expect to pay for an apartment.”

“We’ve both saved some money.”

“Have you been planning this?” He asked, anger flaring again.

“No, Daddy,” She’d laughed, shaking her head. “But I have been working like… all through high school.”

He’d stared at her a long moment, then quickly hugged her in a fierce embrace.

“I trust you, sweetheart. You’ve always been so responsible.”

When they’d pulled apart, she’d seen tears shining in his eyes. “But I just wasn’t ready to give up my little girl so quickly.”

Then tears had sprung to her own eyes, and she’d only been able to nod in response.

But that had been an hour ago, and now her father was pouring champagne for all of them. She realized that was a big mistake—Max had better not even think about taking a sip, or she’d definitely have to intercept his glass.

Maria came up beside her, and slipped an arm around her shoulder. “I’m never going to forgive you, chica,” she said, but her smile belied her words.

“Yeah, right,” Liz laughed. “I can see that.”

“Seriously, I was supposed to be your maid of honor. We had it all planned. You were not going to get married at the Elvis Chapel.”

“We didn’t,” Liz laughed.

“Oh, great. See, there’s so much I don’t know,” Maria protested, and Liz detected a flicker of genuine sadness in her eyes.

She turned quickly toward her friend. “Maria, I’m going to share every detail with you. I won’t leave one thing out, I promise.”

Maria stared at her a long moment. “That’s not what I’m worried about,” she said, and her voice cracked a bit.

“What?” Liz asked, touching Maria lightly on the arm.

“Just promise me you’ll always be my best friend,” she answered quickly, her eyes dropping to the floor.

“Maria!” Liz embraced her quickly. “How can you even ask that? Of course you’ll always be my best friend. Always.”

“Well, I just had to be sure,” she laughed.

Liz glanced up, and saw her father hand Max a glass of champagne. “Oh, no,” she groaned. “He is not going to drink that, or I’ll kill him.”

Maria glanced up, right as Jeff Parker approached each of them. “Ladies, here you go,” he said, handing them both a glass.

“I have to run a bit of interference with my husband,” she laughed quietly, stepping away from Maria.

My husband, she thought. It was the first time she’d ever said those words out loud. And they sounded so right, so natural.

She stepped beside Max, who leaned in close to her, whispering in her ear. “Your dad gave me The Big Talk,” he laughed.

“You, too, huh?” She asked.

“Yeah, but I think he’s okay with this,” he assured her.

“I know,” she answered, staring down at his glass of champagne. “I think he might even…dare I say it, be happy for us?”

“I thought that, too,” he exclaimed, his brown eyes widening.

Their conversation was interrupted when her father began tapping a spoon lightly against his champagne glass, preparing to make his toast.

“Just don’t drink any of that, or he might become very unhappy.”

“Oh, Liz,” he laughed. “You may have made me deliriously happy, but not stupid.”

He kissed her quickly on the cheek. “At least not yet.”

The café grew quiet, as all eyes turned to Jeff Parker, who had raised his glass toward the two of them. Max slipped his arm around Liz’s shoulder, nestling her close against him. She felt his familiar heat radiate through her body, as she listened to her father begin his toast.

Suddenly, she realized her father was smiling almost as giddily as she had been for the past few days. And it was at that precise moment that her happiness found its completion—when she knew that she hadn’t just gained a husband, but that together they’d found her parents approval.

Glancing quickly at Max, she watched his warm eyes as her father began his speech, welcoming him into their family.

And Liz felt him beside her, opening to her, welcoming her within himself… completing the circle of love that surrounded her at that moment.

She sighed. Yet another perfect day… what was she going to do with all the perfect days that lay ahead of them, now that they were truly one, for all the world to see?

But she could handle anything—perfect or otherwise--so long as Max was by her side.

And he was definitely by her side…within her, around her, thoroughly encompassing her in every conceivable way—and she was ready for their future, whatever it might bring.


THE END!

P.S. And now you can read the sequel, GRAVITY ALWAYS WINS!!!!!






[ edited 1time(s), last at 6-Nov-2001 9:42:34 AM ]